It can be easy to lose sight of the purpose of HIPAA compliance, also known as the The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, especially when it creates an extra workload for already-strained practices that are striving to provide the best in patient care and outcomes. What is HIPAA? Why is compliance important? And is it worth the extra work?
According to HIPAAjournal.com, “HIPAA introduced several new standards that were intended to improve efficiency in the healthcare industry, requiring healthcare organizations to adopt the standards to reduce the paperwork burden. Code sets had to be used along with patient identifiers, which helped pave the way for the efficient transfer of healthcare data between healthcare organizations and insurers, streamlining eligibility checks, billing, payments, and other healthcare operations.
HIPAA is now best known for protecting the privacy of patients and ensuring patient data is appropriately secured, with those requirements added by the HIPAA Privacy Rule of 2000 and the HIPAA Security Rule of 2003. The requirement for notifying individuals of a breach of their health information was introduced in the Breach Notification Rule in 2009.”
A Privacy Law, and Much More
We tend to know HIPAA as a privacy law affecting all healthcare professionals and regulating the way patient data can be used and shared. In reality, it is a large and complex piece of legislation that affects many aspects of the healthcare industry, and a large part of it was intended to actually streamline the healthcare data process and reduce the paperwork load for practices. HIPAA also secures a patient’s right to their own health data on request, and ensures that electronic health data is appropriately secured, stored, and shared.
The Importance of HIPAA in Patient Trust and Confidence
However, HIPAA has another important purpose when it comes to your practice and the care of your patients. The HIPAA privacy laws increase patient trust and confidence in the health care system. Before the introduction of robust privacy laws, patients may have omitted health care information or avoided seeking treatment altogether due to a fear of having their personal, sensitive health care details leaked or shared. The HIPAA privacy laws serve to combat that fear and give hesitant patients the confidence to seek medical care and know that their private health data is protected by a robust and comprehensive system.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Prior to HIPAA, no generally accepted set of security standards or general requirements for protecting health information existed in the healthcare industry. At the same time, new technologies were evolving, and the healthcare industry began to move away from paper processes and rely more heavily on the use of electronic information systems to pay claims, answer eligibility questions, provide health information and conduct a host of other administrative and clinically based functions. While this means that the medical workforce can be more mobile and efficient (i.e., physicians can check patient records and test results from wherever they are), the rise in the adoption rate of these technologies increases the potential security risks.”
HIPAA is important not only to streamline and standardize the sharing of patient data, making important information available from anywhere at any time, but HIPAA has an important component in patient trust and confidence in the healthcare system.