Today, you have more reason than ever to care about the privacy of your medical information. This information was once stored in locked file cabinets and on dusty shelves in the medical records department.
Your doctor(s) used to be the sole keeper of your physical and mental health information. With today's usage of electronic medical records software, information discussed in confidence with your doctor(s) will be recorded into electronic data files. The obvious concern - the potential for your records to be seen by hundreds of strangers who work in health care, the insurance industry, and a host of businesses associated with medical organizations.
Fortunately, this catastrohic scenario will likely be avoided.
Congress addressed growing public concern about privacy and security of personal health data, and in 1996 passed “The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act” (HIPAA). HIPAA sets the national standard for electronic transfers of health data. Before HIPAA, each state set their own standards. Now states must abide by the minimum standards set by HIPAA. States can enact laws to incorporate and/or strengthen the basic rights given by HIPAA.
How HIPAA's Privacy Rule Protects YOU; The Patient
Access to your own medical records
Prior to HIPAA, access to YOUR medical records were not guaranteed by federal law. Only about half the states had laws giving patients the right to see and copy their own medical records. You may be charged for copies but HIPAA sets fee limits.
You Must Be Given Notice Of Privacy Practices
How your medical information is used and disclosed must now be given to you. The notice must also tell you how to exercise your rights and how to file a complaint with your health care provider and with the DHHS Office of Civil Rights.
HIPAA Requires Accounting of Disclosure Details
You have the right to know who has accessed your health records for the prior six years, However there are several exceptions to the accounting requirement. Accounting is not required when records are disclosed to persons who see your records for treatment, payment, and health care operations. These individuals do not need to be listed in the disclosure log.
Filing A Complaint
If you believe a health care provider or health plan has violated your privacy you have the right to file a complaint with your health care provider and with DHHS.
Special Requests For Confidential Communications.
You can make special requests specifying how you would like your doctor's office handle confidential communication.