What Are Your HIPAA Rights?
Do doctors have to keep all of your secrets? Does your spouse have to hear everything that your doctor says? Do your parents need to know that you’re pregnant? The HIPAA Privacy Rule provides individuals with a legal, enforceable right to see and receive copies upon request of the information in their medical and other health records maintained by their health care providers and health plans.
The answers to these questions lie within the guidelines of HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. These laws determine what healthcare professionals can and cannot share.
HIPAA also covers the rights and protections that every single patient has. And, if you want to understand your HIPAA rights, you need to read up on your HIPAA rights as a patient.
There are several patient rights under HIPAA. Keep reading to learn more.Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash
HIPAA Rights and Information
HIPAA provides federal protection for a wide range of health information. This includes the following:
- Diagnosis information in medical records
- Treatment details in medical records
- Test results
- Health insurance records
- Billing information related to medical things
- Prescription information
Overall, HIPAA protects all individual health information. If a piece of information can help to identify a particular patient, HIPAA protects it.
However, it’s important to note that not everyone has to follow HIPAA. The rules behind HIPAA only apply to HIPAA-covered entities. Here are some examples of places and people who need to follow HIPAA:
- Healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, dentists, pharmacies, psychologists, and more
- Health insurance companies, HMOs
- Government health programs
- Healthcare clearinghouses
- Business professionals who have access to health insurance information, such as lawyers, contractors, billing companies, accountants, and more
All of these entities must also follow The Privacy Rule. This rule dictates that these same providers and professionals must work to protect health information. In particular, they must safeguard Protected Health Information (PHI).
In addition, The Security Rule states that these professionals should safeguard electronic PHI or ePHI.
It is the responsibility of professionals to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of patient information.
And, since there are strict rules regarding healthcare information, patients should understand their rights under HIPAA. There are six main rules.
1. Data Usage Notice
First is the data usage notice.
According to HIPAA, each medical entity has to let every patient know how to use their medical data. And they have to follow the privacy agreement that you sign. Medical professionals often title this agreement as to the “Notice of Privacy Practices,” or NPP.
If you don’t remember signing this document, you should access it online on the healthcare provider’s website. Or, you’ll receive the copy when you go to your first appointment with a new healthcare provider.
If they violate the privacy agreement that you sign, you can hold them accountable for that.
Even though the privacy notice may seem tedious, you should take a quick read. You may be surprised by what your healthcare provider is doing with your data. And, you may not want them to use your data in that way.
2. Copies of Health Records
This is one of the HIPAA rules that patients use the most. This rule says that patients should have access to their medical records. Every patient has the right to view their rosters and obtain a copy if they’d like.
If you haven’t taken advantage of this right yet, now is the time. It’s essential to look over your medical documents so that you can correct errors as needed.
Medical errors account for as many as 251,000 deaths in the United States every single year. So, by making sure that your information is as correct as possible, you’re protecting yourself from potential problems down the road.
You may also want to keep updated copies for your records at home. And, you can share this information with whomever you want.
If you want to get a copy of your medical records, you should ask your healthcare facility how to do so. Usually, they will require that you request in writing. More specifically, they may have a form for you to fill out.
Once you’ve provided the information that they need, the medical facility should provide a copy of your medical records within 30 days of the request. This copy can be physical or electronic, depending on what you request.
While it is your right to receive this information, you should also remember that there may be a small fee associated with obtaining this information.Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash
3. Error Corrections as Needed
As we explained, you have the right to look at your medical records. On top of this, you have the right to correct your healthcare provider if anything within those records is false.
Whether it’s wrong or something missing, it’s essential to make a note of it and fix it. Even the slightest error could lead to a massive mistake in the future. So, you should make sure to let your healthcare providers know about anything you notice.
During your appointment, you can let your healthcare provider know, but writing it down is always the best method. It would be best if you wrote down all of the changes that they need to make. Then, you can hand that paper to the administrative or medical staff at your healthcare facility.
Verbalizing the changes isn’t bad. However, putting it all in writing makes things easier for the staff at the healthcare facility. And, it makes sure that they address everything you want to be done.
4. Communications Records
As it ties in with your privacy notice, you have the right to know who has seen your medical records. You have the right to see every person who has seen your medical records within the past six years.
But, the healthcare facility will only release this information if you request it. So, if you want to know who’s been viewing your health records, you should put the request in writing.
Again, putting this kind of request in writing makes it easier for the staff at the healthcare facility to follow through with your request.
5. Share Restriction as Requested
Patients don’t have to share information with anyone that they don’t want to share information with. This means that your parents, spouse, and everyone else don’t have to know everything about your medical chart.
There are some limitations to this rule, but you can withhold information for the most part.
Patients can control the administration of their information for personal purposes other than treatment, payment, or operational reasons.
However, you can rest knowing that it’s against the law for these healthcare facilities to use your information for marketing, advertising, or research. That is unless you authorize them to use your information in those ways.
Your healthcare facility should give you a few forms regarding your HIPAA rights. These will outline your rights as a patient and allow you to designate people who can receive your information.
You may indicate family members, friends, caregivers, legal representatives, or whomever you want to receive your medical information. You may also show whether or not the office can text, call, or leave voicemails for specific people.
In turn, you can also indicate who shouldn’t receive your medical information. For example, you may not want your parents to receive a call about your healthcare if you’re an adult.
6. Compliance Concerns
Lastly, you have the right to raise any concerns that you may have about the privacy of your medical information. If you believe that an unauthorized individual has had access to your health data, you’re allowed to bring that to your healthcare facility’s attention. And, you should.
You can and should file a complaint if you feel someone has violated your information or if you think your healthcare facility hasn’t respected your patient rights. You can file your complaint online or in writing to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigates all HIPAA-related complaints. And, if they rule that there has been a violation, the healthcare facility that didn’t follow HIPAA may have to pay a fine.
It’s important to note that HIPAA doesn’t have a private cause of action. This means that you wouldn’t be going against the healthcare facility as an individual. Instead, the OCR would handle the complaint and the investigation.
So, you don’t have to worry about going against them yourselves.
This makes it easier for patients to come forward about potential issues. They’re more likely to do so since their names wouldn’t be tied to the investigation.
What Is HIPAA Training?
If you’re one of the individuals who must follow HIPAA, you need to have updated HIPAA training. Whether you’re a healthcare professional, a member of a medical office’s staff, or another covered individual, several HIPAA training are available for you.
It’s time to protect yourself, your workplace, and your clinic. Learn the most updated HIPAA rules now.