How Does the HIPAA Law Regulate Electronic Health Records?

The HIPAA law regulates electronic health records by setting strict privacy and security standards, requiring covered entities to implement administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect patients’ PHI, ensuring individuals’ rights to access and control their health data and establishing guidelines for electronic data interchange and the use and disclosure of PHI, safeguarding patient confidentiality and promoting the secure exchange of health information.

The HIPAA governs the handling of electronic health records (EHRs) to ensure the privacy, security, and proper management of patient’s PHI. HIPAA was designed to address concerns related to healthcare portability and to establish nationwide standards for electronic healthcare transactions and PHI protection. The HIPAA Privacy Rule and Security Rule are two primary components of HIPAA that specifically relate to electronic health records.

HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule

The HIPAA Privacy Rule, also known as the Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information, lays out the standards for protecting the privacy of patients’ PHI. It sets limits on the use and disclosure of PHI, requiring healthcare providers, health plans, and other covered entities to obtain patient consent before using or disclosing their health information for purposes other than treatment, payment, or healthcare operations. To comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule, covered entities must implement privacy policies and procedures, conduct workforce training on privacy practices, and designate a privacy officer responsible for ensuring compliance with HIPAA regulations. Healthcare professionals also need to establish protocols for handling patients’ requests for access to their health records and adhere to strict guidelines when sharing PHI with third parties, including business associates.

The HIPAA Security Rule, also known as the Security Standards for the Protection of Electronic PHI, complements the HIPAA Privacy Rule by addressing the technical and physical safeguards required to protect electronic health information. It requires covered entities to conduct a risk analysis to identify potential vulnerabilities and implement measures to safeguard electronic health records from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. Under the HIPAA Security Rule, healthcare professionals must implement access controls, such as unique user IDs and passwords, to limit access to PHI based on the principle of least privilege. Organizations should encrypt PHI during transmission and at rest to prevent data breaches and unauthorized disclosures. Regular risk assessments and security audits help to maintain compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule and ensure the ongoing protection of electronic health records.

HIPAA also grants patients certain rights over their health information. These rights include the right to obtain a copy of their EHRs, request corrections to inaccurate or incomplete information, and receive an accounting of disclosures made by covered entities. Healthcare professionals must be aware of these patient rights and promptly address any patient requests in compliance with HIPAA guidelines. The enforcement of HIPAA is overseen by the U.S. HHS OCR. The OCR investigates complaints of HIPAA violations and can impose penalties for non-compliance, ranging from fines to criminal charges in cases of willful neglect. It is necessary for healthcare professionals to stay up-to-date with HIPAA regulations and actively work towards maintaining a culture of privacy and security within their organizations.

HIPAA Omnibus Rule and 21st Century Cures Act

In recent years, the healthcare industry has experienced a shift towards interoperability and electronic health information exchange. As a result, the HHS introduced the HIPAA Omnibus Rule in 2013, which strengthened patients’ privacy rights and expanded the responsibilities of business associates, such as EHR vendors and health information exchange organizations, to comply with HIPAA regulations. The 21st Century Cures Act, passed in 2016, aims to promote the seamless exchange of health information and improve patient access to their health data. This act introduces provisions that encourage the adoption of standardized application programming interfaces (APIs) to facilitate patient access to EHRs and enable the development of innovative healthcare applications.

Healthcare professionals need to understand the intricacies of HIPAA and its impact on the management of electronic health records. Compliance with HIPAA regulations ensures the protection of patient’s sensitive health information and creates trust between healthcare providers and their patients. By maintaining strict privacy and security standards, healthcare professionals can contribute to the advancement of a secure healthcare system, benefiting patient care and outcomes.

About Christine Garcia 1310 Articles
Christine Garcia is the staff writer on Calculated HIPAA. Christine has several years experience in writing about healthcare sector issues with a focus on the compliance and cybersecurity issues. Christine has developed in-depth knowledge of HIPAA regulations. You can contact Christine at [email protected]. You can follow Christine on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ChrisCalHIPAA