Introduced in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applies to all healthcare organizations – including healthcare providers, health plans, and clearinghouses. But why is HIPAA important and what are the benefits to patients and the healthcare industry at large?
What Is HIPAA and What Are the Rules?
HIPAA was first designed to help employees move health insurance plans between employers when they changed jobs. Since then, it has evolved to cover all aspects of privacy in healthcare – in particular, to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of protected health information (PHI).
Combined, the HIPAA Privacy Rule, Security Rule, Breach Notification Rule, Omnibus Rule, and Enforcement Rule serve to protect patient health information by requiring all HIPAA-covered entities to follow data security best practices and ensure PHI is stored, shared, and accessed securely.
HIPAA Privacy Rule: The Privacy Rule sets limits on who can access and share PHI when no prior authorization has been given by the patient. It also stipulates that patients have a right to obtain copies of their health data upon request.
HIPAA Security Rule: The Security Rule lays out the standards for safeguarding PHI. All HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates (BAs) must implement technical, physical, and administrative safeguards to maintain the integrity and privacy of health records.
HIPAA Breach Notification Rule: The Breach Notification Rule mandates that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) must be notified within 60 days of a data breach involving the records of 500 or more individuals is discovered. For data breaches involving fewer than 500 records, the HIPAA-covered entity must report the breach within 60 days of the end of the calendar year. Affected individuals must also be notified – as must the media if more than 500 patient records have been compromised.
HIPAA Omnibus Rule: The Omnibus Rule merges the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act into HIPAA. It extends HIPAA coverage to business associates, prohibits the use of PHI for marketing purposes without authorization, and lays out penalty tiers for HIPAA violations.
HIPAA Enforcement Rule: The Enforcement Rule applies should a breach of health records occur. It outlines how resulting investigations are carried out and how regulators determine liability and calculate fines.
Why Is HIPAA Important to Healthcare Organizations?
HIPAA has been instrumental in helping covered entities transition from paper records to electronic records. By setting safeguarding standards, HIPAA ensures organizations know what to do, what to protect and how to protect it when storing and transferring electronic PHI (ePHI) between providers, health plans, and other entities in a healthcare system.
HIPAA compliance, indeed, is crucial to healthcare security – precisely why fines for violations are as high as they are. Failure to meet the standards set out in the regulations can result in huge fines for the offending party. Penalties for HIPAA violations range from $100 to $50,000 per incident, up to a maximum of $1.5 million for each violation. The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) collects millions of dollars every year from organizations that are in breach of HIPAA.
Why Is HIPAA Important to Your Patients?
HIPAA protects patient data. That is the legislation’s primary purpose and, ultimately, it is patients that are (arguably) HIPAA’s greatest beneficiaries.
Healthcare data has huge value on the black market. PHI often contains all of an individual’s personally identifiable information, which can be used by malicious actors to commit identity theft and other types of fraud. According to a recent report from SecureLink, a single healthcare data record may fetch $250 on the black market – compared to just $5.40 for the next highest value record (a payment card). No wonder healthcare data breaches are on the rise – one successful attack can lead to the theft of hundreds or thousands of records.
HIPAA is important to patients because it ensures healthcare organizations and the business associates they work with implement adequate safeguards to protect sensitive patient information from being exposed or stolen. Of course, no healthcare provider would intentionally set out to expose their patients’ health information – but without HIPAA, there would be no actual requirement for them to implement safeguards to protect it and no consequences for failures to do so.
HIPAA ensures that all patient data is subject to strict security controls as it’s created, shared, and stored. It establishes rules that require healthcare providers to control who has access to PHI and restricts who that information can be shared with and for what purposes.
In addition, the HIPAA Privacy Rule gives patients the Right to Access their health information as and when they need it. This is important for patients who are seeking treatment from new healthcare providers, as the new provider can then have the entire health history of the patient to inform their treatment plans and decisions. Before HIPAA, there was no requirement for organizations to provide patients with access to their health records. HIPAA, however, ensures that all patients can take an active role in their own healthcare.
Free Data Backup and Recovery Guide from Central Data Storage
Why is HIPAA important? Because it protects your business and your patients from data theft. Achieving full HIPAA compliance can be challenging, however. You need the right data backup processes and disaster recovery plans in place and all your records must be stored to rigorous standards.
That’s why Central Data Storage has put together this comprehensive guide – How to Make Sure Your HIPAA-Compliant Business Is Robust Enough to Weather Any Data Disaster: A Practical Guide on Data Backup and Recovery – which you can download for free today.
Talk to us here at Central Data Storage. We exist to help HIPAA-covered entities remain HIPAA compliant at all times. We offer fully supported cloud backup and recovery solutions for dental practitioners. Call 1-888-907-1227 or email email@example.com today.