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What Is HIPAA Security Rule and Privacy Rule?

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act  (HIPAA) was initiated to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. healthcare system. There have several additions to the rules to enhance the protection of sensitive patient information. The entities that are covered by HIPAA are health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and any healthcare provider that electronically transmits information like health claims, referral authorities, and coordination of benefits. Covered entities like individuals, organizations, and institutions also come under it. As per the amendments of 2013 HIPAA now extends also to business associates, which includes IT contractors, accountants, and even cloud services.

Non-compliance of HIPAA Privacy Policies:

HIPPA has made it mandatory for the covered entities and business associates to put in place technical, physical, and administrative measures for protected health information (PHI). HIPAA Security Policies make it mandatory to protect the data and even safeguard the integrity and accessibility of data.

HIPAA Privacy Policies and Security Rules:

HIPAA privacy policies specify the standards for protecting the patients’ medical records and other PHI. It specifies the rights of the patients over their medical information and requires covered entities to protect the information. The rules specify the ways and procedures to use and disclose the PHI. Under the Privacy Rule comes the security rule that deals with electronic PHI or ePHI.

The HIPAA security policy applies to the following safeguards:

  1. Technical- defined as the technology and the policies for using technology to protect ePHI. The technical safeguard specifies the rules regarding access, audit controls, integrity, and authentication.
  2. Physical- physical measures, policies, and procedures for protecting electronic information systems and related equipment and property from all hazards be it natural or environmental and also from human intrusion.
  3. Administrative- administrative action, policies, and procedures for managing the selection, development, and maintenance of security measures to protect ePHI. It also handles the employee conduct related to ePHI protection. It is mostly because of administrative actions. HIPAA thus focuses mostly on the administrative safeguards. The safety standards include security management process, assigned security responsibility, workforce security, information access management, security incident procedures, contingency plan.

Ensuring HIPAA Compliance-

HIPAA was expected to be flexible and scalable for each covered entity and with technology evolving with time it needed to adjust here also. Therefore rather than just being descriptive or prescriptive HIPAA being evolving would be of immense help.

The aspect of evolvement needs to be very dynamic and as per the organization that incorporates it. Incorporating and following the Privacy Rule can be an expensive and time-consuming affair for the companies but then this factor should not be the deciding factor while implementing it in the company.

Risk assessment, implementation of mitigation plans, management of risks should be done before incorporating the HIPAA in any organization. Also, the cost of HIPAA breach and consequences of a breach like loss of business and goodwill should be assessed before deciding on the implementation of HIPAA Privacy Rules.

HIPAA Security and Privacy rules establish the framework for protecting the patient’s medical records and other PHI. It covers the aspects of the patient’s rights that they have over their information and requires that the covered entities also protect the information.

The Privacy rule lays out the format and circumstances where PHI can be disclosed and used. Security rule is a subset of the Privacy Rule.

There are specific ways and methods to implement the Privacy Rule in any organization. Security Rule, on the other hand, is technology-neutral and with encryption of data, the information can be kept protected. However, in all situation, it is the covered party that hols responsibility in case of a data breach.


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