According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are approximately 44,000 licensed chiropractors practicing in the United States. While the majority of chiropractors practice full time, roughly a third of them are considered part-time practitioners. Regardless of which category your chiropractic practice falls under, though, you should familiarize yourself with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.
Why HIPAA Compliance is Necessary for Chiropractors
HIPAA was created back in 1996 with the goal of improving the privacy of healthcare patients. Because of this, many chiropractors assume HIPAA does not concern them, simply because they aren't medical “doctors.” But HIPAA affects all forms of healthcare, including general care practitioners, specialists, dentists, and even chiropractors. Covered entities that fail to comply with HIPAA and its requirements could face hefty fines.
Basics of Maintaining a HIPAA-Compliant Chiropractic Practice:
- Develop a set of written policies regarding the compliance of HIPAA.
- Develop a privacy notice to distribute to all clients whom seek your chiropractic services.
- Ensure that all Protected Health Information (PHI) is properly disposed of.
- Designate someone as the Privacy Officer.
- Designate someone as the Security Officer (this can be the same person as the Privacy Officer).
- Implementing safeguards to prevent the disclosure of PHI.
- Conduct regular audits (internally) to ensure your practice is compliant with HIPAA.
Security and Privacy Rules
Among the most important elements of HIPAA are Security Rule and Privacy Rule. As a chiropractor, it's your responsibility to understand the Security Rule and Privacy Rule and how they pertain to patient privacy. The Security Rule addresses Electronic Protected Health Information (EPHI), and contains requirements such as the implementation of technical, physical and administrative safeguards. The Privacy Rule addresses all forms of Protected Health Information (including paper), and contains requirements regarding the use and disclosure of PHI.
The key thing that chiropractors should remember is that it's unlawful to disclose personally identifiable information without the client's consent. Whether your intentions are good or not, you must have the clients consent before you can disclose any personal information about him or her. Such information may include names, addresses, medical ID numbers, Social Security numbers, birthdates, etc.
You can learn more about the nuances of HIPPA and its implications for chiropractors by visiting the American Chiropractic Association's (ACA) website at http://www.acatoday.org/level2_css.cfm?T1ID=15&T2ID=378.