The Importance of HIPAA

The Importance of HIPAA

I recently went to my physician for a standard check up and some blood work. My friend who accompanied me there, since I have a big fear of doctors and needles, followed me into one of the exam rooms to be my moral sustain. Since the room was rather tiny, my friend stopped in the doorway and decided she would stand there to be out of the nurses way. The nurse who was about to take my blood pressure and other vitals seemed a bit weary of this. She informed me that it was better if my friend would just wait outside in the waiting room since, according to HIPAA, she wasn’t supposed to be near or in the hallway while I was in the exam room. I had heard the acronym numerous times, but never really understood what it was or what it did so upon hearing it again, and being confused as to why my friend couldn’t stand near the hallway area, I decided to do some investigating and find out the basics of HIPAA.

HIPAA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a vital act for health care professionals which works to protect doctors and patients. The act is separated into two titles. The first title protects the coverage providing by health insurance for both workers and the families of those workers, while the second title, also called the Administrative Simplification, protects the information of workers and their families by ensuring it doesn’t become public knowledge, unless necessary or required.

The Privacy Rule, which is a part of the second title, protects information on workers and their families’ healthcare that is covered under “covered entities.” These covered entities are mostly heath insurers, health care providers and heath plans that employers themselves supervise. The Privacy rule is mainly used to control what Protected Health Information, or PHI, is shared. The PHI is what a covered entity, having to do with the health of a worker or the family member of a worker and payment for health care, has access to.

Covered entities have two important responsibilities. The first one is to make sure a person receives their information from PHI within a 30 day period, after it has been requested. The second is for covered entities to report PHI if asked to by law. When information is given, PHI must make sure that only the applicable information is disclosed in order to solve the issue.

The Security Rule is one more rule that is a part of HIPAA. The Security Rule correlates with the Privacy Rule, but there is a difference between the two. While the Privacy Rule deals with all PHI, both paper and electronic, the Security Rule deals with only Electronic Protected Health Information, or EPHI.

Personally, I am nevertheless not one hundred percent sure why my friend couldn’t stand near the hallway at my doctor’s office, although I am guessing it has something to do with my right to privacy or perhaps a safety issue, but I now have a better understanding of what HIPAA truly is and the basics of how it operates.

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