Banks aren’t the only organizations being targeted by cyber-attacks. Hospitals and other healthcare practices are also being targeted. According to ModernHealthcare, hackers gained access to the medical records of 13.5 million individuals in 2016 — and that only accounts for major breaches. You shouldn’t have to worry about your medical records being stolen and sold on the black market, though. While data breaches are bound to happen, every U.S. citizen has a fundamental right to a secure medical history for the following reasons.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
While most healthcare professionals are familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), many patients have never even heard of it. Nonetheless, HIPAA pays an important role in healthcare privacy and security. In 1996, Congress passed HIPAA to create standards for protecting the confidentiality of healthcare information. This comprehensive legislation requires healthcare practitioners to take certain measures to protect patients’ medical records from unauthorized disclosure. Failure to implement these measures may result in fines, corrective action and other penalties. In fact, more than $22 million in HIPAA fines were paid to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last year.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act
In 2009, President Obama passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) as a provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Among other things, HITECH requires healthcare practitioners to adopt electronic health records (EHRs). This means doctors, chiropractors, dentists, and other healthcare practitioners must now store patient information in electronic format. The purpose of this provision is to help protect against the disclosure of patient records by modernizing the healthcare system. Additionally, HITECH gives patients the right to obtain a copy of their EHRs. Healthcare practitioners are allowed to charge a reasonable fee for such copies, but they must comply with the patient’s request.
Securing Electronic Healthcare Data
While HITECH requires healthcare practitioners to store patient information in electronic format, HIPAA requires practitioners to protect that data from unauthorized access. The HIPAA Security Rule, for instance, specifically addresses Electronic Protected Health Information (EPHI), requiring practitioners to implement safeguards to ensure patient privacy. Thankfully, there are several ways to secure EPHI, such as encrypting data, choosing HIPAA-compliant business associates, destroying EPHI that’s no longer needed and training staff members.
The Importance of Privacy
Many individuals do not realize just how important their medical history is. In this day and age, it is more important than ever before. With bloodthirsty pharmaceutical companies on the prowl, every person needs to have a sense of their own inalienable rights when it comes to healthcare –including every detail therein. No one wants to knowingly be exploited, and people need to realize that the constitution ensures them this right. There is simply no time in life to be held down by fear, especially when it comes to medical records.
Do Not Share Medical Info with Others
This is a no-brainer, but it still needs to be said. You should never share your medical records or information with friends or even family members –it could get lost or accidentally shared or stolen by others of a less than savory sort. Do not become the victim of someone else’s bad intentions, protect yourself and think smart. You might even get copies of your medical records from your provider so that you can make sure the information you have is copasetic with what they have. Also, you might consider tracking your medical history so that you can make prudent health decisions throughout your life.
Healthcare Privacy Laws Create New Jobs
The adoption of healthcare laws like HIPAA and HITECH Act has increased the demand for healthcare workers. According to Georgetown University, the healthcare industry will need 5.6 million new workers by 2020. If you’re interested in a rewarding and fulfilling career, consider seeking a master’s degree in health administration. One such job that organizations will need to fill is healthcare administration.
The Affordable Care Act
Finally, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also reinforces healthcare confidentiality for Americans. A report by the New York Times suggests that 11.6 million Americans signed up for health insurance through the ACA. As more Americans become insured, there’s a greater emphasis placed on the confidentiality of medical records.
With legislation like HIPAA, HITECH, and the ACA, there’s a greater emphasis being placed on healthcare privacy and confidentiality. This benefits the average American by giving him or her the right to a secure medical history.