The Importance of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules Enforcement

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Healthcare records provide significant information about a patient. They are fundamental in providing good patient care. Medical records comprise sensitive information about the patient such as medical, health, diagnosis, condition. treatment or assessments. With the introduction of HIPAA and constant technological advancements, the healthcare sector is moving towards electronic health record (EHR). The EHRs have allowed medical practitioners to exchange information with other healthcare providers or third-party vendors.

In addition, EHRs have allowed patients to access their records from remotely anywhere and provide consent about how and where their information is used. This leads to a few questions – who can access the information on an EHR? How to verify the integrity of the records? In order to protect patients’ PHI, the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule are enforced. The primary goal of the Privacy Rule is to protect the confidentiality of patients’ information and gives them the right over how that information is utilized regardless of whatever form it takes. PHI is vulnerable to both internal and external threats. Internal threats revolve around mobile devices in the workplace (bring-your-own-device). External involves the extraction of PHI using malware and phishing schemes.

It helps regulate as to what personnel can access the PHI and the circumstances in which it can be used or disclosed. In addition, it helps prevent the risk of harm to a patient’s finances or reputation that could be caused through disclosure to a third-party vendor. Moreover, the Privacy Rule not only protects the PHI but also the Individually Identifiable Health Information – specific information that can help identify an individual – such as, credit-card information, vehicle registration, next-of-kin etc. Further, the covered entities must abide by the Minimum Necessary Rule which stresses on disclosing PHI limiting it to the minimum necessary for the stated purpose irrespective of circumstances.

While Privacy Rule is there to protect PHI, the Security Rule provides necessary precautionary steps for the confidentiality, integrity and availability of ePHI. There are three main safeguards under the HIPAA Security Rule – administrative, physical and technical. Administrative safeguards are guidelines that help against a potential data breach. It is to make sure that the technical and physical protection is implemented and consistent. Physical safeguards are there to make sure that data is physically secure.

In addition, it includes policies regarding mobile devices, hardware and software. Lastly, Technical safeguards are technology related policies to protect against unauthorized access. The covered entities can also select alternate mechanisms in order to comply with the HIPAA Security Rule. These mechanisms ensure that PHI is accessed by authorized personnel.

With the digitization of healthcare records, the PHI is stored online and is vulnerable to both internal and external threats. The HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule play a major role in maintaining the confidentiality, integrity and availability of PHI. With the technological advancements taking place every day, it is important for the healthcare industry to comply with HIPAA guidelines.

Health care data is sensitive in nature and mounts information security risks. It is vital that healthcare providers have a concrete and reliable security system. The policies should govern on keeping the data secure, anticipate and prevent a potential data breach.

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