We live in an age of technological advancements, and the health care industry has seen major changes in the way patients’ information is recorded and stored. Hand-written notes and rows of file folders have been replaced in many health care facilities in North Carolina and nationwide by electronic records. These electronic records may be used by health care providers and insurers, but it is important that these records are kept confidential.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, commonly known as “HIPAA,” introduced privacy protections for patients’ identifying health information. Two rules published following that Act that affect health care providers are the Privacy Rule and the Security Rule. It is important that health care providers understand what these rules are, so they can ensure they remain in compliance.
Under the Privacy Rule, health care providers, health care clearinghouses and health plans who use electronic systems to make health care transactions must protect patients’ identifying health information. National standards were set under the Rule that the covered entities must comply with. Under the Security Rule, standards were set to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic medical records.
Health care law has had to change to keep up with advancements in technology, and HIPAA is just one example of how the federal government addressed the issue of privacy and electronic medical information. It is a complex law, so for those who are in need of a more detailed explanation of how HIPAA affects health care providers it may be necessary to get additional information about unique circumstances.