The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is considered as a groundbreaking piece of legislation, but why is this?
HIPAA was enacted first in 1996, mainly to address one particular issue: Insurance coverage for people that are between jobs. Without HIPAA, employees faced a loss of insurance coverage when they were between one job and another.
A secondary aim of HIPAA was to stop healthcare fraud and ensure that all ‘protected health information’ was appropriately secured and to restrict access to health data to authorized people.
Why is HIPAA Important for Healthcare Groups?
HIPAA brought in a number of important benefits for the healthcare sector to assist with the transition from paper records to electronic copies of health information. HIPAA has made it easier to streamline administrative healthcare functions, improve efficiency in the healthcare sector, and ensure protected health information is shared safely.
The standards for recording health data and electronic transactions means that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. As all HIPAA-covered bodies must use the same code sets and nationally recognized identifiers, this helps greatly with the transfer of electronic health information between healthcare suppliers, health plans, and other bodies.
Why is HIPAA Good for Patients?
Arguably, the greatest advantages of HIPAA are for patients. HIPAA is important as it means that healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and business associates of HIPAA-covered entities must put in place multiple safeguards to protect sensitive personal and health data.
While no healthcare group wants to expose sensitive data or have health information obtained, without HIPAA there would be no need for healthcare groups to secure data – and no repercussions if they did not do so.
HIPAA put in place rules that require healthcare groups to control who has access to health data, limiting who can view health information and who that information can be shared with. HIPAA helps to ensure that any information shared to healthcare suppliers and health plans, or information that is created by them, sent or stored by them, is subject to stringent security controls. Patients are also allowed to manage who their information is released to and who it is shared with.
HIPAA is important for patients who want to take a more active role in their healthcare management and want to see copies of their health information. Even with great care, healthcare groups can make errors when recording health data. If patients are able to see copies, they can check for mistakes and ensure mistakes are corrected.
Obtaining copies of health information also is good for patients when they seek treatment from new healthcare providers – information can be shared on, tests do not need to be carried out again, and new healthcare providers have the complete health history of a patient to form their decisions. Before the introduction of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, there was no requirements for healthcare organizations to release copies of patients’ health data.