The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was signed into law in 1996. It's a complex set of rules that govern how healthcare providers can share confidential health information with each other and when and how they can share it with people outside of the medical field. It can be difficult to keep up with the latest HIPAA compliance changes in the ever-changing healthcare industry. However, knowing what regulations are coming down the pipeline and how they will affect your clinic can help you avoid any issues down the line. In this article, I'll walk you through some of the most important upcoming changes in HIPAA regulations so that you can stay on top of your game.
HIPAA compliance is a big deal. Medical practices that don't follow the rules can face hefty fines and even lose their ability to serve patients at all. The importance of staying abreast of these changes cannot be overstated; being compliant with HIPAA regulations could save your clinic from unforeseen legal trouble. Compliance with HIPAA laws and regulations is critical for Protected Health Information (PHI) entities. Compliance Home can help organizations by providing a comprehensive overview of the changes that have taken place in the industry to ensure compliance with these regulations. It allows business owners and stakeholders to understand the necessary requirements and responsibilities they must adhere to. Here are the latest changes that have been made to HIPAA compliance:
Cutting Response Time in Half: Reducing the Wait for Individuals to Access Their Own Healthcare Data from 30 to 15 Days:
This latest change to HIPAA regulations will require healthcare providers to respond to requests for an individual's medical records within 15 days of receiving the request. This includes delivering a copy of the requested data and notifying the individual of any changes made to their information. Previously, providers had 30 days to comply with such requests. This change is important because it will help ensure patients have more timely access to their healthcare data.
Empowering Patients to Take Control: Allowing In-Person Review and Photographs of Their Medical Records or Taking Notes
With these changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, patients can take a more active role in their health care. This includes being able to review their records in person, taking notes on them, requesting copies of their records, and obtaining those copies in an electronic format or even another language. These changes may seem minor at first glance; however, patients now have greater control over how they interact with their medical information.
Securing Patients’ Right to Choose: Allowing Them to Request Their PHI Be Sent to a Personal Health Application with an Updated Definition
The definition of personal health application has been expanded to include the ability to request PHI be sent to a personal health application. This means that not only are you able to choose which applications you want your electronic data in, but also who will be able to access it. If you were previously worried about how these changes would affect you, businesses such as yours need to understand the importance of compliance with HIPAA laws. While there are some exceptions, most clients want their information kept confidential and secure when sharing sensitive data with them.
Protecting Individuals’ Rights: Ensuring Unreasonable Obstacles Aren’t Placed on Exercising Access to PHI
As part of the Patient Bill of Rights, you must protect the privacy and security of an individual's health information. You must also ensure that patients have access to their health information in a timely manner and notify them of any breach or unauthorized use within 60 days. In addition, you may only deny a patient's request for PHI if you can prove that providing it would be an unreasonable burden on your business or organization. Individuals who request electronic copies of their PHI must receive them in electronic format unless otherwise specified by law (e.g., state-specific laws).
Limiting Access: Ensuring Individuals Are Given Electronic Copies of Their ePHI Stored in an EHR Only
The new rule also requires that individuals be given electronic copies of their ePHI stored in an EHR only after they request it and in an interoperable format. For example, if the EHR uses Microsoft Word to store ePHI, it must also be able to produce a PDF version of the same document. The provision requires that individuals be given electronic copies of their ePHI stored in the EHR only after they request it and in a format that is interoperable with other software used by those accessing or transmitting the information. It also allows covered entities flexibility when determining how often to allow such requests from patients/clients/residents (as long as such requests are made at least once per year).
Making ePHI Accessible: HIPAA-Covered Entities to Publish Fee Schedules and Provide Individualized Estimates for Obtaining Copies of ePHI
HIPAA entitles patients to an individualized estimate of the fee for obtaining a copy of their PHI. To comply with this requirement, HIPAA-covered entities must publish a fee schedule in their Notice of Privacy Practices that estimates the usual and reasonable fees they will charge for providing copies. HIPAA-covered entities may provide an individualized estimate based on other factors, such as the number of pages or type of medium requested. Still, it is not required that they do so. The law also requires that covered entities provide individuals with reasonable access to their PHI by making electronic disclosure available when feasible and by accommodating requests for alternative formats upon request.
Expanded Definition of EHR and “Healthcare Operations”: Including Care Coordination and Case Management
Case management is a process where individuals are assigned to a healthcare provider or agency that monitors their clinical and social needs and their response to treatment. Case managers determine if an individual needs additional services or support, such as housing assistance or community resources. Care coordination is another important component of healthcare operations and should be incorporated into all aspects of your business's plan for compliance with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Care coordination includes monitoring an individual's health status over time, discussing the course of treatment plans with other providers involved in treating them (e.g., primary care physicians), providing recommendations on how patients can get services more efficiently after being discharged from a hospital setting, etc.
Overall, the changes in HIPAA are a positive step towards strengthening the privacy of individuals and their PHI. This will help ensure that people can access their health information from anywhere and that they have control over how it is shared with others. The new definition of ePHI will also allow for more streamlined and efficient care coordination processes, which can lead to better outcomes for patients at every stage of their care journey through treatment or recovery.