Enacted back in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) set out with good intentions. The goal of the legislation was to protect sensitive patient information. Healthcare providers that deal with protected health information (PHI) must be compliant with it.
PHI pertains to any information that could reveal who a person is. It could be their health status, payments, or treatments. The HIPAA legislation forced medical teams to make sure they communicate with each other with more care. There is no excuse for accidentally disclosing patient information.
There are two essential questions you need to consider. The first is “what is HIPAA compliance, and how does it impact companies?” The second “how does it affect healthcare providers and patients?” We will explain the factors that influence the answers.
What is HIPAA?
Healthcare Technology and Data Security
Since the act became law, the rules of patient confidentiality have not changed much. The advancement of technology makes it a severe challenge for Healthcare. Adhering to the same quality of data security is much harder now than the days of locked filing cabinets.
Professionals are adapting to new systems every day. These electronic methods provide efficiency and simplify everyday tasks. Conversely, they create a higher risk of committing HIPAA violations.
For this reason, HIPAA adopted the Security Rule. This is a national standard that protects an individual’s electronic personal information. The HIPAA Security Rule is like the Privacy Rule. The difference? The latter covers the digitized and standardized version of patient confidentiality.
The medical community dutifully safeguards patient privacy. However, they need to ensure that their vendors do the same. Medical suppliers are required to have a “business associate agreement” (BAA). A BAA is a contract designed to protect medical information and the liabilities of each patient involved.
The theory looks good on paper, but finding vendors who accept the obligations is a slow process. This is the most significant impact HIPAA has on medical supply companies.
How HIPAA Is Harming Patient Care
Although HIPAA had the patient’s safety in mind, the legalities make it a severe hindrance to care. While well-intentioned, HIPAA compliance has created a culture of paranoia. This inhibits medical professionals and makes delivering complete quality healthcare demanding.
The repercussions of a HIPAA violation are far too high. They have the potential to prevent essential communication between healthcare providers.
HIPAA is outdated. It is reliant on how much information patients choose to share with the outside world. In many ways, third-parties have more data on the patient’s health habits than healthcare professionals themselves.
Sharing medical records was already a complicated process. Professionals are now faced with the challenge of making sure medical information is protected everywhere. Companies need to focus on data protection to reduce the burden. This impacts both patients and professionals.
The repercussions of a HIPAA violation are far too high
Privacy in the Patients’ Hands
HIPAA prevents your pharmacy technician from sharing what you have been prescribed (which is a good thing). What it doesn’t do is stop you from signing away incredibly sensitive information to health-related companies. Two examples of this are FitBits and fertility mobile applications, as both collect health-related data. It’s incredibly demanding to determine what is private for each individual.
The most plausible solution lies within the control of the patient. App users can inadvertently give away their private data to tech companies. Sensitive information is already protected, but is it enough? Laws should be revised so that it is focused on what type of data is being shared, rather than who has access to it.
Rethinking Health Privacy Law
When HIPAA made its mark, technology was nowhere near advanced as it is today. Third-party companies should not have more power and freedom than healthcare professionals. Laws should be revised to take into account the connected world we live in today.
Medical teams need more training on how to adhere to proper HIPAA provisions. Now that data breaches and identity theft are more common; this is more critical than ever. The ethical code of medical professionals already reinforces patient confidentiality. They should be able to perform their duties without the constant threat of HIPAA violations looming.