The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is concerned mainly with individuals and information concerning their health and insurance. It has enacted several laws to control the different situations where such information or individuals come in contact with certain parties called covered entities for particular purposes.
The following points will tell you more about the information involved and the provisions in the HIPAA laws for effective management of the same.
• Information: Information of a person includes all data that can identify the particular individual. Personal information will comprise of the name address, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, social security number and date of birth. In addition all physical and mental health information from the past, present and future will be included. Furthermore data related to the health insurance, payment for any treatment received and other billing details will be incorporated. Such information is required by certain entities for administering proper treatment and processing your insurance. The information can be written, or be stored in an electronic format on a computer or may also be communicated verbally.
• Entities: Every individual will like to keep sensitive information to themselves; however you will be required to divulge such information to a handful of entities. These will mainly consist of healthcare providers like hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and professionals like doctors and psychologists who will need the data if they are to provide you with proper treatment. Similarly a health plan which includes insurance companies, company health plans or even government plans will require such information for managing your insurance and settling any claims. HIPAA has listed all such covered entities that access your data and requires them to follow a stringent set of rules so that only the bare minimum data is collected for the purposes that are specified beforehand.
• Communication: HIPAA laws further protect your information by asking the covered entities to take a number of precautions when storing and transacting such data. This includes allowing only the concerned personnel or entities to access sensitive information and taking the necessary safeguards against any unauthorized access during transmission. The law not only covers data in physical and electronic format but also what is conveyed verbally. Thus personnel like nurses, doctors and other hospital staff has to be equally careful when sharing such information.
• Personal Understanding: Educating yourself about the relevant HIPAA laws that affect you is the most effective way to protect personal information. You must ask the covered entity for a copy of the Notice of Privacy Practices (NOPP) which will tell you how your data will be managed and used. Also you will understand the scenarios where such information can be disclosed without your authorization and when your consent will be needed. In this way you will know if any violation has taken place and can approach the entity or higher authority to rectify the situation.
If you find it difficult to understand the HIPAA laws you can approach the entity and seek clarification, either way ensure that you keep track on how your data is being managed.