February 25, 2015 by The GLS Team
HIPAA and patient privacy have become of utmost importance in all areas of health care. Patient information is extremely valuable and protected at all costs by HIPAA. The recent growth of the healthcare field has brought about a host of industries into the field including the following: technology experts, pharmacy professionals, insurances, those in healthcare sales and of course an abundance of care providers. HIPAA training is essential to all of these professionals, as well as a number of others in the field to ensure that the valuable information related to a patient’s health is safeguarded and protected.
What is HIPAA?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 was passed by congress in an effort to aid people in keeping health insurance as well as protecting the confidentiality and security of health information. The privacy piece of the act enforces the protection of individually identifiable health information that is transmitted via any medium. This is extremely important to the day to day operations of all healthcare entities. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinic Health (HITECH) Act was enacted in 2009 and further amends HIPAA to include the advances of health care technology like electronic health records.
PHI (Protected Health Information) is protected by HIPAA and includes any identifying information about a person relating to their past, present or future physical or mental health. This includes not only their name, social security number and date of birth but also their disease, diagnosis, procedures, conditions and prognosis. It is easy to see why this information is important to protect. Any individual would want this information about themselves kept private, and only transmitted to the appropriate entities; other care providers, or insurance providers for payment, etc. All of this information can be contained in a variety of mediums including paper files, voicemails or faxes. EPHI (Electronic Protected Health Information) includes all of the aforementioned items except that they are saved, transmitted or received in an electronic form.
HIPAA further identifies the rights of patients in obtaining their PHI, changing errors to their records, requesting confidential communication as well as their right to complain. Most cases require a patient’s authorization for the release of PHI however health care providers are able to release information if the information is necessary or related to treatment, payment, and operations or is mandated by law.
Why is HIPAA Important?
A patient’s PHI or ePHI often contains very sensitive information, that, if released into the wrong hands could cause serious problems. Protecting this information is important to patient care but also to avoid harm to the patient. If a patient’s health condition is unintentionally released to their employer or another family member without the patient’s permission this could cause a number of negative consequences for the patient.
Very often there is gray area about what information about a patient can be released. Many professionals and employees don’t realize that simply talking about a patient and including any identifying information (their situation, their hair color, where they live etc.), even if the name is omitted, is a violation of HIPAA. Patient information should never be discussed with other individuals who are not included in the care of the patient. Furthermore, electronic records have made it easier for healthcare professionals to access patient data. This has made HIPAA training all the more important to educate healthcare professionals about when it is appropriate and inappropriate to access a patient’s chart.
Breaches in health information and HIPAA violations are a serious legal offense. They can bring about very costly litigations that can carry on for months. Avoiding these types of situations is the best method of dealing with them. HIPAA and the HITECH Act are both in depth ensuring that a workforce managing any PHI or ePHI is trained in HIPAA guidelines.
How Can I Get Training?
HIPAA compliance training is a requirement of the HIPAA and HITECH training component for all staff handling PHI. Global Learning Systems offers HIPAA training to aid organizations in meeting this requirement. HIPAA compliance training will educate employees about what HIPAA is, why it is so important and how to honor its guidelines. This means learning about what PHI is, how to recognize it and when it can be transmitted without patient authorization. To avoid costly litigations, and protect patients’ health information, HIPAA training is essential to the work force.