Typically, you’re entitled to protect your personal health information from unauthorized access. This is especially true if you deal with medical professionals and other healthcare service providers when seeking medical care.
However, with the increasing number of privacy threats offline and online these days, you might be hesitant to share some personal details about yourself, particularly about your health, with certain parties. This is because divulging confidential information to the wrong person can result in negative consequences such as medical identity theft and fraud.
Thus, if you’re planning to disclose your personal health information, below are the four things to know before doing so.
- What Constitutes Personal Health Information
Also known as protected health information (PHI), personal health information refers to pieces of information that have something to do with your health and overall well-being. These can include information about your medical histories, mental health conditions, laboratory test results, prescriptions, treatments received, insurance details, and other data medical practitioners gather to provide proper healthcare.
Hence, when talking to a doctor or other healthcare professional, it’s essential to know what certain health-related information you should be careful disclosing. That way, you can be at peace knowing that your personal health information will not fall in the wrong hands.
- Legal Protection Given To Personal Health Information
Another thing you should know before disclosing personal health information is that the HIPAA or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act aims to provide legal protection to it. It’s federal legislation that regulates the use, access, storage, and disclosure of PHI. In other words, HIPAA rules and regulations oversee the way HIPAA-covered entities collect, maintain, store, and transmit sensitive medical PHI.
With these things in mind, you should know and understand that HIPAA can safeguard your personal health information once shared with a medical professional, healthcare providers, and other authorized organizations. They implement specific rules and regulations to ensure the safety of protected information, especially when it’s already in the hands of third-person actors.
Nonetheless, suppose the individuals or organizations handling PHI fail to comply with the rules. In that case, the non-compliance might result in certain consequences, including payment of settlement as a fee for the violation or a lawsuit in court.
- Handling Of Personal Health Information Under HIPAA Privacy Rule
As mentioned, HIPAA is designed to protect your health information when it’s held by your healthcare provider or health insurance company. This is where the federal law’s privacy rule comes into play. It usually governs how HIPAA-covered organizations utilize, keep, and share medical-related personal health information.
This means that once you disclose certain confidential information, the organization holding it has to protect it from unauthorized access. Under the privacy rule, they can’t share or sell personal health information except in some instances like for public health purposes and for treatment and payment as authorized by HIPAA.
- Safeguards Used To Protect Personal Health Information
It’s also important to know that safeguards are in place to safeguard your personal health information. Under the HIPAA Security Rule, all individuals or organizations handling PHI must provide certain precautions to ensure its confidentiality and privacy. The three standard safeguards can include:
- Technical safeguards usually involve the use of technological advancements in protecting PHI. Suppose you’re sharing health information with your healthcare provider. In that case, they should install firewalls and use encryption and other security software to ensure no unauthorized persons can access your data or no security breaches can happen while it’s in their hands. That way, they can avoid falling into malevolent cybercrime activities perpetrated by criminals.
- Physical safeguards include the use of physical measures that protect systems, equipment, and buildings against unauthorized intrusion and other environmental hazards. Henceforth, the healthcare provider to whom you disclose your information has the responsibility to perform necessary measures to lock up physical and electronic records of PHI.
- Administrative safeguards cover the enforcement of policies restricting the access of PHI by specific individuals and other administrative approaches, including those related to medical coding and billing processes. For example, when you divulge information to a HIPAA-covered person or entity, the latter should undergo some degree of training to guarantee the protection of PHI.
In most cases, covered individuals and organizations should do their best to safeguard a patient’s personal health information. Since HIPAA governs them, they’re expected to practice full compliance with the rules and regulations. Doing this can get rid of the unnecessary costs of violations, which only create legal trouble for all parties involved.
Generally, personal health information falls under the category of confidential and private information. Because of this, it’s crucial to take the necessary steps to ensure PHI is protected, particularly when handed over to your doctor or other healthcare providers. By keeping the things mentioned above in mind, you’ll have an idea of what to expect when you’re ready to disclose your personal health information.
Remember, the more you know what can happen after the disclosure, the more you can have peace of mind knowing your sensitive information is preserved at all times.