In 1996, the United States Congress endorsed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA.
It’s a huge Act, but the Privacy Rule is part of this Act that most of us hear about.
The Privacy Rule provided the first nationally-recognizable regulations for the use or disclosure of our individual health information.
Essentially, the Privacy Rule defines how covered entities can use your personal health information.
These covered entities are your health insurance company or any clearinghouse used by a healthcare provider. Thus, your health care provider is also regulated by it.
Generally, the HIPAA Privacy Rule gives you, as a patient, control over the use of your own health information.
The ACT defines boundaries for the use or disclosure of your health records by these covered entities.
National standards were established that our healthcare providers must comply with.
HIPAA seeks to limit the use our health information and minimize the chances of its inappropriate disclosure.
Therefore, violators are held accountable with civil or criminal penalties for violating our privacy.
This HIPAA Privacy Rule strives hard to regulate the sharing of our personal health information without making it a deterrent for accessing healthcare facilities.
Thus, the Privacy Rule does permit disclosures, under special circumstances, wherein individual authorization is not needed by public healthcare authorities.
Our biggest contact with the word HIPAA is signing all those forms at the doctor’s office. They detail our rights concerning our health information and it’s privacy. If you’ll notice you seem to actually be giving your healthcare provider permission to use that information and to share it.
You actually don’t have to sign the HIPAA forms. But a refusal to do so may cause the doctor to also refuse to treat you. The doctor will tell you that your refusal makes them unable to bill your insurance company for the services.
But if you’ll notice you are most of the time signing that you have received their Notice of Privacy Practices when in fact you weren’t actually provided them!