For many patients, the only time they get to hear about HIPAA is when they need to fill forms at the hospital. It is important that you fill these forms, but equally important is why that is an important exercise. The fact that HIPAA is quite extensive as a document means that patient may not have the avenue to go through it and even if they did, would not understand what it contains. While it is mandatory for medical professionals to be trained on the document, it is important for patients to at least know the basics and how it relates to you.
Real dangers that HIPAA protects against
Unfortunately, most people already have a bad experience regarding an invasion of privacy and stolen identity. With advances in technology comes convenience but this same technology heightens your chances of being a victim of fraud. Did you know that there are people willing to pay lots of money on the black market for protected health information (PHI), which is the kind of private data that HIPAA aims to safeguard? When a credit card is lost or stolen, the best solution to protecting your money is to report it as stolen and request a new one. Well, what do you do when someone has their hands on your social security number, full name, home address, email address, and personal biometric identifiers?
With such unlimited access to personal data, fraudsters can create a new person, claim health insurance for someone else, or commit financial fraud. Before a patient can prove that they are victims of fraud, any access to healthcare insurance will have been revoked.
Criminals that prey on PHI use various methods to access records from health care institutions. From server hacking to access large scale PHI records, phishing emails that trick recipients into sending login details to plain stealing of devices that store PHI, all avenues of data access can be manipulated for the wrong reasons.
HIPAA approach to patient protection
If healthcare facilities follow the HIPAA guidelines on data privacy, many of the scenarios mentioned would be avoided. The two main guidelines to this effect are regular risk assessments and data encryption. Training of healthcare personnel cannot be overemphasized because this awareness puts them on high alert to recognize when data privacy is about to be compromised.
The most important aspect of HIPAA is safeguarding the privacy of medical records; this is a sure guard against fraud because all details in a patient’s medical file are kept secret. This secret can be shared but only to authorized persons and under the authority of the patient.