The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a new document on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.

Titled “HIPAA Basics for Providers: Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rule”, the document aims to educate healthcare providers and other covered entities on the rules surrounding patient privacy. We live in a high-tech connected day and age, with many doctors using electronic devices and/or networks to store sensitive data. As a result, it creates issues regarding the security of patient information. HIPAA is designed to protect patients' privacy by establishing a set of rules.

Far too many healthcare providers turn a blind eye to patient privacy, assuming it's not their responsibility. If you handle, store or otherwise manage patient information, though, the HHS classified you as a covered entity, meaning you must abide by the rules set forth in HIPAA. Failure to do so could result in fines, or in extreme circumstances, criminal prosecution. The HHS has stepped up efforts in recent months to cite offending healthcare practices, so make sure your practice is fully compliant.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules were established to protect the privacy and security of health information and provide individuals with certain rights to their health information,” wrote the HHS in its new document.

It's important to note that HIPAA's new document is only 7 pages long; therefore, it doesn't cover all of the intricacies of the law. The document isn't intended to serve a detailed explanation of HIPAA, but rather it's an overview of the guidelines within HIPAA. Some of the topics covered in the document include the HIPAA Privacy Rule, Security Rule, and Breach Notification Rule.

The HHS even provides examples of HIPAA violations, such as one involving a former hospital employee who pleaded guilty to HIPAA charges after obtaining Protected Health Information (PHI) with the intend to use it for personal gain. Cases such as this are rare, but they do occur, and the HHS aims to make an example out of them.

If you want to brush up on your HIPAA knowledge, check out the last few pages of the HHS document. It contains dozens of links to helpful HIPAA-related resources, many of which contain key information about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

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