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Tim Mullahy | December 4, 2018
Whether you’re a healthcare provider or simply work with them, you have an obligation to protect the information of your patients - and their privacy. Here’s what that involves. Healthcare organizations routinely work with some of the most sensitive data you’ll ever see - information that includes names, addresses, social security numbers, and intricate details about personal health. The sort of stuff that could fetch a tidy profit on the black market.
Not surprisingly, there are some pretty strict regulations around the storage, usage, and protection of this data. In the United States, they fall under something known as the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It’s a pretty comprehensive set of rules and regulations - far too much for us to cover everything today.
Instead, we’re going to focus on one specific subset of HIPAA - privacy.
In essence, the purpose of HIPAA’s patient privacy rule is to ensure that a patient’s information is freely accessible in all situations where it’s essential to their care, but is otherwise protected. It’s about striking a balance, one which promotes access to information while still protecting the privacy and dignity of the person to whom that information belongs. It’s designed to be both flexible and comprehensive - but with that in mind, you should still familiarize yourself with the basic beats of it.
Information it protects includes…
Excluded information includes…
Note that in the case of protected information, there is a very specific set of circumstances in which it can be used without requiring the authorization or consent of its owner. While you’re still permitted (and in some cases, encouraged) to notify the individual, you are not required to do so under HIPAA. Note that in some of these situations, a user may choose to restrict the use of their data, and you are required to comply.
HIPAA can be confusing and overwhelming at first - but it’s actually a lot simpler than you’d think. In essence, the main thing you need to remember is that you have a duty of care to protect your patient’s data and their privacy. Understand that, and everything else should fall into place.
Tim Mullahy is the Executive Vice President and Managing Director at Liberty Center One, a new breed of data center located in Royal Oak, MI. Tim has a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. To find out more, visit http://www.libertycenterone.com.