How To Meet HIPAA Requirements For Release Of Medical Records
It has been well over a decade since Congress passed the Health Insurance and Portability Act (HIPAA) which instituted rigorous new provisions for the protection of personal medical information as part of a sweeping effort to ensure that patient privacy rights are being protected in the newly unfolding digital age. HIPAA requirements for release of medical records are primarily designed to give patients more control over their protected health information by establishing clear limits on the use and release of this data by healthcare organizations nationwide.
As the impact of advances in information technology, along with a host of significant administrative changes – like the Affordable Care Act of 2009 – continue to influence how medical institutions implement these important protection provisions, staying abreast the most current HIPAA requirements is becoming a daunting challenge for healthcare organizations of every description.
Navigating the new terrain
In-order for any healthcare facility to ensure that it is meeting basic compliance guidelines relating to HIPAA requirements for release of medical information, each institution must evaluate the three primary elements that control the areas where patient privacy is most susceptible to being breached. These areas are:
Administrative safeguards - pertaining to internal policies, procedures, and actions that manage each medical facility's selection and implementation of specific security measures designed to secure protected health information. This includes policies aimed at directing the conduct of any covered entity's workforce, as well as threats from outside.
Physical safeguards – these generally relate to a facility's policies and procedures aimed at protecting the electronic information system's components. Most often this means protecting buildings and sensitive equipment from such hazards as natural and environmental element – but can also extend to physical intrusions, as well.
Technical safeguards – this is probably the most critical area of concern on a day-to-day basis for healthcare administrators. This area is principally concerned with the technology being employed to maintain and share medical records, along with the policies and procedures established to protect digital health information, and access to it.
While each of these areas has its own, as well as overlapping considerations, when it comes to ensuring HIPAA requirements for release of medical records, the technical elements tend to present most healthcare organizations with the biggest challenge due to their lack of experience in overseeing these details.
Partner with professionalism
What many healthcare organizations have discovered is that joining forces with experienced document management and release of informationvendors can be the key to getting a handle on, and staying abreast of the increasingly complex world of HIPAA requirements for release of medical information.
The main reason for this is that leading ROI vendors are quite diligent in providing staff that are experienced in HIPAA procedures, and in ensuring their staff receives ongoing training in the changing landscape of these regulatory provisions. Having such a partner in managing the wide variety of release of medical records procedures employed by differing medical facilities has proven to be invaluable for many such organizations.
Professional document management and ROI vendors are experts in such areas as data encryption technology, electronic auditing systems, and password protection procedures. These are the core elements essential to establishing the level of security mandated in the HIPAA requirements for release of medical records and protected health information.
With many of these aspects of protection and information sharing sitting outside the area of expertise of most medical facilities, partnering with a professional ROI vendor gives healthcare institutions a big advantage in delivering the level of security expected by both patients, and HIPAA guidelines.
While HIPAA requirements for release of medical records permit healthcare facilities to routinely share such things as laboratory test results and x-ray images for purposes of diagnostic collaboration, having experienced professional assistance in doing so, while complying with broader guidelines, is absolutely crucial in today's regulatory environment.
Photo credit: hmomoy via Flickr
Fig Gungor is CEO of OneSource Document Management, a New York based company that offers a broad range of customized copy and scanning services that translate into a significant savings for insurance companies, hospitals and large medical facilities.