How Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule Affect Your Practice?

by Sarah Harvey / February 6th, 2018

Many business associates and covered entities are already overwhelmed with responsibilities, so it can be a struggle to find the staff and resources to dedicate to managing strict regulatory demands. In our highly data-driven world, ensuring the privacy of customer data, specifically protected health information (PHI) and patient data, is becoming a top priority of organizations worldwide. In the world of healthcare, the HIPAA Privacy Rule exists to aid business associates and covered entities in ensuring they are doing their due diligence to protect PHI.

What is the HIPAA Privacy Rule? Who needs HIPAA Privacy? What does a HIPAA Privacy Rule assessment include? So, how does the HIPAA Privacy Rule affect your practice? Read on to find out.

What is the HIPAA Privacy Rule?

The Privacy Rule is a national standard intended to protect patient’s protected health information (PHI). The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires healthcare organizations and their third parties to implement appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of this information. It regulates things like appropriate use and disclosure of PHI, patient access to PHI, and patient rights. The HIPAA Privacy Rule is important because without it, healthcare organizations can disclose and distribute protected health information (PHI) without the consent of the individual. If this sensitive data were to end up in the wrong hands, it could negatively impact the individual.

Who Needs HIPAA Privacy?

According to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, healthcare organizations such as private practices, general hospitals, outpatient facilities, pharmacies, and health plans are subject to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. If you are considered to be of these entities, it’s important to understand and ask yourself, how does the HIPAA Privacy Rule affect your practice? Non-compliance can result in OCR sanctions and hefty fines for these entities. As healthcare data continues to be a major target for cyber criminals, healthcare organizations must take steps that go above and beyond HIPAA Privacy Rule compliance through sophisticated information security and risk management practices.

What Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule Cover?

There are five main areas of the HIPAA Privacy Rule according to 45 CFR Part 160 and Subparts A and E of Part 164. A HIPAA Privacy Rule Assessment evaluates policy and procedure documentation relating to these areas, which include:

  1. Notice of Privacy Practices – This is the method for communicating patient rights to patients. This document should establish the basis for a patient’s understanding of what will happen with their PHI.
  2. Patient Rights – This refers to a patient’s rights with respect to PHI, including their right to authorize uses and disclosures.
  3. Minimum Necessary Standard – This states that organizations must make an effort to use, disclose, and request only the minimum amount of PHI needed for the intended purpose of the use and disclosure of the PHI.
  4. Administrative Requirements – A designated Privacy Officer should be responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures. The Privacy Officer must have appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards in place to protect the privacy of PHI.
  5. Uses and Disclosures – The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires that organization define the uses and disclosures of PHI for treatment, payment, and operational purposes, including an example for each purpose.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule exists so that patients know they have rights, what those rights are, and how those rights are respected. Is your organization is struggling to answer the question, how does the HIPAA Privacy Rule affect your practice? Contact us to learn more about how a HIPAA Privacy Rule Assessment can help ensure your compliance.