Saturday, December 17, 2011

8 Common Myths Surrounding HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) like any other Act is made for your benefit. But as the laws evolve many amendments are made which can lead to its misinterpretation by both the patient as well as the professional.

Following are some of the myths that are completely false or only true in part.

1. HIPAA Disallows Sharing Information with Family: This is something doctors might say when they are unsure. But the fact is that your medical information can be shared with a family member or caregivers or for that matter anyone whom you have allowed access. All the doctor has to do is check the records to confirm your written consent.

2. No Exchange of Emails between Doctor and Patients: Again this might be something your doctor says. The law however does require such emails to be suitably encrypted or available only on secured servers. The doctor's refusal might be to avoid taking the many safeguarding measures as required by the law.

3. Information Access Only to Permitted Parties: There are certain bodies that can access your information without your consent. Some of these entities outside the control of HIPAA include government bodies, public health officials, worker compensation bodies, law enforcement agencies investigating domestic violence, abuse or any law related issues and even insurance companies in matters of certain payments.

4. You Can Sue When Denied Information: Just because the entity has not responded to your query does not mean you can go ahead and sue them. What you must do is to follow the proper channel and send a letter to the senior authorities within the entity asking for clarification. A lawsuit must be filed only in the case of more serious violations.

5. Entity Has to Make the Demanded Changes: You have the right to ask certain changes to be made to your personal information, but that does not mean the entity is obliged to make them. You can write a letter clearly pointing out any errors in your data or explaining why the changes are required.

6. All Medical Records have to be Provided to You: You have a right to access your own medical information, but the doctor is allowed by HIPAA provisions to withhold information in certain cases. For example information regarding the medical condition of a patient may be denied if the doctor sees a possibility of the patient harming themselves after seeing such sensitive information.

7. Law Provides Protection for All Medical Records: You will not be safeguarded by HIPAA laws if you decide to upload you medical information on certain sites offering a safe haven and easy access for your data as such sites do not come under its provisions. Any misuse thereof will be your sole responsibility.

8. Medical Information Cannot Be Used at all: While your information cannot be sold or used in advertising, healthcare providers can use such information to communicate with you to inform about new services being offered.

If you have any other doubts or confusion regarding certain provisions of HIPAA, you can always approach the relevant authorities and request clarification on any queries that you may have.

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