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HIPAA Guidelines and Private Practice


The primary goal of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is to protect the people’s health insurance, protect their confidentiality and also help the healthcare sector control administrative costs. The health care providers, the health care clearinghouse, as well as the health plans, are all required to comply with the guidelines stipulated in the act. The first section of the title, portability, ensures that workers can carry their health insurance when they move from one job to another. The other section sets standards for handling patient information, from manual to electronic systems.

Some of the information protected include the patient’s names, telephone numbers or addresses, photographs, finger and voice prints and all other information pertaining to the patient’s health and payment records. The HIPAA protects these and many other confidential details. The act sets limits and conditions on the use of information without patient authorization. Patients, therefore, have the rights to their health information, as well as the right to obtain a copy of their health records. This also gives them the right to request corrections in case of any errors. Privacy, therefore, facilitates personal autonomy, individuality, respect as well as dignity and worth as a human being.

Disclosure of patient information ruins the physician-patient relationship as well as trust between them. The patient is unable to trust the physician with any information pertaining to health. They would be less likely to share sensitive information or refuse to seek care and be honest during healthcare visits. In case patient information reaches unauthorized hands, the patient could also suffer various risks that include threat on a patient’s life. When sensitive information regarding a patient is disclosed, it may result to stigma, embarrassment, and discrimination. Violations of patient information also carry significant civil and criminal penalties which are under the law of the state. These fines are not only imposed on individuals, but also on various health institutions. In some cases, the violations could also lead to criminal sentencing.

Lack of privacy in a patient’s information may also hinder beneficial activities like health research. Individuals will only accept to participate in health research if the protection of their information is guaranteed. Privacy of such information, therefore, enhances data quality for research and also quality improvement initiatives. When information is withheld, inaccurate or incomplete, the data entered may bring out wrong research analysis.

In summary, policies, procedures and guidelines outlined by the HIPAA should be carefully observed by the involved entities in order to avoid the violations that affect the patients involved as well as to avoid penalties and fines the entities have to suffer. Personal information about patients should be protected against improper disclosure at all times. Professional expertise should be used when selecting systems to record, access and send electronic data. For instance, administrative information such as a patient’s name and addresses should be obtained separately from all other clinical information in order to avoid automatic display of sensitive information.

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