There are certain entities in the healthcare field, insurance companies and healthcare providers for example, that need to collect various information of the individual and even exchange it with other entities for treatment and insurance purposes. While this is required for the proper functioning of the industry it also poses a series of threats as sensitive information of an individual is involved. The Privacy Rules of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have tried to address this concern by framing a set of guidelines to protect health information.
Some of the points that covered entities have to keep in mind regarding health information are listed below.
• Collection: The most important thing that any covered entity must keep in mind is that the data must be collected by legitimate means only without resorting to any unfair and secretive practices. The individual must be duly informed about why the data is being collected and the process must be continued only after receiving consent.
• Quality: The covered entities must also make sure that the data collected is relevant to their specific purposes. No attempt must be made to gather any extra data; only the information required for the smooth functioning of the treatment or for any related matter must be sought. Instead the entity must focus on ensuring that the information is complete and accurate to the best of their knowledge.
• Use: A very vital aspect of the HIPAA Privacy Rules is the use of the collected information. Covered entities that are in possession of the individual’s data must use it only for the purposes allowed by the law and share the information solely with entities that require it for the approved purposes. Remember that if you are one of the entities you must neither seek data nor disclose it to others if it falls outside the purview of the relevant rules.
• Clarity: All the covered entities are required to have a clear set of policies regarding the management of personal health information. Complete information about the practices followed for using the data must be readily available; in fact the entities must provide the patient with the Notice of Privacy Practices (NOPP) at the first opportunity to keep them well informed.
• Safeguards: Besides the collection of appropriate data the entities are also required to take sufficient measures to safeguard such information. The safeguards must provide adequate protection against data theft, unauthorized access and even destruction of the records.
• Patient Participation: To give the patient more control over their own information HIPAA Privacy Rules require an entity to seek due authorization from the patient for use of the data for purposes other than those specified by the law. In addition the patient can seek a copy of personal information and even make suggestions to modify or delete certain content.
All the parties involved must understand the HIPAA Privacy Rules for managing information, whether it is the covered entities seeking data or the patient who must know the consequences when authorizing use of personal information.