To some, HIPAA can seem like an unnecessary bureaucratic burden, but the reality is, HIPAA is a fairly efficient system for protecting patients’ personal medical records and data. Complex yes, but it allows for authorized doctors and medical personnel to safely access and shares a patient’s health records in order to provide the best possible care to that patient. Meeting HIPAA guidelines can be tedious, but there are reasons we should, in fact, be happy for HIPAA.
Quality and Security
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which was introduced in 1996, established rules for access, authentications, storage and auditing, and transmittal of a patient’s electronic medical records. When you think about it, this Act was set in motion at a time when the Internet was really just starting to explode, meaning there was an even lesser threat of breaches exposing patient data or hackers stealing online data.
But HIPAA wasn’t enacted for hackers. HIPAA was enacted to ensure patient data remains safe and secure. This security also extends to healthcare organizations’ multiple technologies as well as their staff and patient communications.
Additionally, HIPAA requires that there be a direct connection to the quality of service a healthcare organization provides to its patients. Not only does it demand comprehensive patient data security, but it also forces healthcare operations that wish to remain competitive to utilize an Electronic Health Record (EHR) platform for patient record keeping.
Keeping the Record Straight
On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Health Information Technology and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA,” also known as the economic stimulus bill). Passed to stimulate the adoption of health information technology (HIT), HITECH created the permanent Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) and provided $19 billion over a four-year period for providers who adopt and use HIT.
Beginning in 2011, HITECH provided financial incentives to hospitals and providers for the adoption and “meaningful use” of EHRs. EHR systems go a long way in helping healthcare operations prove HIPAA compliance, but also have holes.
On its own, a good EHR system will help coordinate patient care by speeding up the patient data entry and retrieval process as well as eliminate the problems of manual handwriting and paper record keeping. But an EHR system alone is not enough. If doctors and administrators are using slow and outdated communication tools beyond the EHR (think phones, fax machines, and pagers), then it becomes harder to get all the real benefits of a good EHR system.
It is critical for healthcare organizations to ensure all their technologies foster HIPAA compliance, and that is especially true for staff and patient communications. Many of the SMS channels of communication on smartphones and tablets are not secure and do nurture HIPAA compliance though. Yet, these forms of communication are constantly being used within healthcare facilities and inadvertently risking patient data.
The good news is that the newer tools and apps like TigerText are safely replacing these older, slower and outdated communication technologies and making HIPAA compliance even easier to abide by. No longer does HIPAA need to be a headache. Instead, with the right and easy tools, it can be embraced for what it was originally intended to do – protect you and your personal health information and rights!
It is because HIPAA compliance requires state of the art technology for the handling of medical records that the quality of healthcare is improving. That alone is a great enough reason to be happy for HIPAA. These tools are helping foster HIPAA compliance while also improving patient care and making it more efficient. At the end of the day, isn’t that something we all strive for?
Decades ago when the seatbelt law was passed, drivers and passengers alike rolled their eyes at the mere thought of having to restrain themselves in a vehicle. It took years to finally be widely accepted; yet now, most people don’t even start a car engine without clicking their seatbelt first.
HIPAA, HITECH, Meaningful Use and all other like requirements will follow that suit. They may feel tedious to implement now, but in time, those rules and regulations will simply become instinctual – they’ll be second nature in healthcare and a non-issue. It is then that healthcare will find happiness in HIPAA’s intent and not frustration in its implementation.