Why is HIPAA Important?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a piece of legislation that was considered ground-breaking when introduced, but why is HIPAA important? In this report we will be looking at the changes HIPAA introduced and the benefits to the healthcare industry and patients.

HIPAA was first introduced in 1996, with its main aim to being to address one particular issue: health insurance coverage for individuals that are between jobs. Before HIPAA, employees faced a loss of insurance coverage when they were moving between jobs.

Following this, HIPAA’s secondary goal was to prevent healthcare fraud and ensure that all ‘protected health information’ (PHI) was secured appropriately and to restrict access to health data for authorized individuals.

Why HIPAA is Important for Healthcare Organizations

HIPAA introduced several important benefits for the healthcare industry to help with the transition from paper records to electronic copies of health information. Among these benefits include streamlined administrative healthcare functions, improved efficiency in the healthcare industry, and ensured securely shared health information.

The standards for recording health data and electronic transactions ensures everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. Since all HIPAA-covered entities must use the same code sets and nationally recognized identifiers, this helps enormously with the transfer of electronic health information between healthcare providers, health plans, and other entities.

Importance of HIPAA for Patients?

Although it can be said that HIPAA benefits almost all parties, the greatest benefits of HIPAA are for patients. HIPAA is vital for patients as it ensures healthcare providers, health plans, and business associates of HIPAA-covered entities must enforce multiple safeguards to protect sensitive personal and health information of their patients.

Although it is clear that no healthcare organization wants to expose sensitive data or have health information stolen, without HIPAA there would be no requirement for healthcare organizations to enforce this and, of course, no repercussions if they failed to do so.

Once HIPAA was introduced, rules were established which required healthcare organizations to control who had access to health data, restrict who could view health information and who that information could be shared with. HIPAA helps in ensuring that any information disclosed to healthcare providers and health plans, or information that is collected, transmitted, or stored by them, is subject to rigorous security controls. Patients are also given control over who their information is released to and who it is shared with.

HIPAA is important in particular for patients who want to take a more active role in their healthcare and would like to obtain copies of their health information. Despite their best efforts, healthcare organizations can make mistakes when recording health information. If patients are allowed to obtain copies, they can check for errors and ensure mistakes are corrected.

Obtaining copies of health information also has another major benefit; it can help patients when they seek treatment from new healthcare providers. In the event of this, information can be passed on, tests do not need to be repeated, and new healthcare providers have the entire health history of a patient to improve their decisions. Before the Introduction of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, there were no requirements for healthcare organizations to release copies of patients’ health information.