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A Look at Patient Rights Under HIPAA

Safeguarding personal health data of US citizens

HIPAA is federal legislation that is designed to safeguard the personal health data of US citizens. Most of the entities that handle data about your health are required to adhere to HIPAA, so every patient should understand what their rights are under the legislation.

A woman typing on a laptop, with stethoscope beside it
In order to benefit from the HIPAA legislation, as a US citizen you should understand
what your rights are and how is your health data safeguarded by those who have it.

Who Has to Follow HIPAA?

Any entities that are required to follow HIPAA are referred to as ‘covered entities.’ These entities include some obvious examples, such as hospitals and healthcare facilities. However, many people are unaware that health plans, health insurance companies, nursing homes, and businesses that process medical bills electronically all have to adhere to HIPAA regulations.

Businesses and organizations that are required to adhere to HIPAA regulations need to make sure that they use specialist services for cloud data storage and retrieval to ensure HIPPA-compliance at all times. Otherwise, personal medical data can inadvertently be exposed during retrieval and might become accessible when it shouldn’t be.

Which Organizations Are Exempt From HIPAA?

While HIPAA is often presented as something that every organization that deals with healthcare data must adhere to, there are actually several notable exceptions that patients should be aware of. For example, employers who hold basic health information about you do not usually have to follow the Privacy and Security Rules of HIPAA. Similarly, schools and school districts, as well as the majority of law enforcement agencies also are not required to follow these rules.

Note that just because an organization is exempt from HIPAA regulations, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have to keep your personal medical information private and secure; it just means that they do not have to follow the specific requirements laid out in HIPAA.

What Information Is Covered?

The range of information that is covered by HIPAA is quite broad. In general, any information that doctors, nurses, or other caregivers and healthcare professionals add to your medical record will be covered by HIPAA. Any records of conversations between you and any of the aforementioned professionals are also likely to be protected under HIPAA.

Any information about you that is stored by health insurance companies or payment processors who handle your medical billing is also going to fall under HIPAA regulations. In fact, virtually any information about your health that is held by a covered entity is going to be subject to the protections of HIPAA.

What Rights Do I Have Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule?

The most important rights of data subjects under HIPAA are:

● The ability to request a copy of any of your health records that covered entities are holding.

● The ability to have errors in your health information corrected by the entities that hold them.

● Be notified of how your health information is going to be used and who it can be shared with.

● The right to deny permission for your health data to be shared for marketing or other protected purposes.

● The right to request a report on how your information is going to be shared and why.

If you are concerned that your rights under HIPAA are not being respected then you can file a complaint with either HHS or with the entity that is holding your healthcare data. Every US citizen should take the time to find out what HIPAA is and which situations it applies to.

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