Your Right to Medical Privacy: HIPAA
What Does HIPAA Protect?
The privacy protections of HIPAA are found within the Administrative Simplification section of the law. The privacy rule has been in place since 2003. It provides specific rules about the dissemination of protected health information. Protected health information is defined as any information about the health status, provision of health care or payment of health care that can be linked to an individual. In essence, it means that there are now specific rules about sharing any part of a patient’s medical record or billing history.
How are the Privacy Protection of HIPAA implemented?
The law makes clear that covered entities (such as doctors and health insurance companies) must make reasonable efforts to ensure confidentiality of communications. A patient, for example, could request that all phone calls and written correspondence be directed to his or her home only and not his or her workplace. Further, the patient can request that no information be sent via e-mail.
What Are the Exceptions to HIPAA Protection?
If the information contained in the medical records is something that the health care provider or insurance company is required to disclose by law then HIPAA protection does not apply. For example, if a child’s medical records indicate injuries from child abuse then the health care provider is mandated to report that to the police in most states.
What To Do if Your HIPAA Privacy Rights Have Been Violated
The law requires each covered entity to have a complaint procedure set up so that a patient who believes his or her rights have been violated can file a complaint. A patient may also file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.
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