What is Hitech HIPPA?

Patient confidentiality has always been an important aspect of patient care in the healthcare industry, as has accessibility for patients to their own medical records. For decades, HIPAA was the primary protection in place and the standard of the healthcare industry, and more recently, the creation of the HiTech Act has further emphasized patient confidentiality while toeing the line with accessibility in more applicable ways within our digitally-based world. The following information will cover everything you want to know about HIPAA and HiTech and how they protect your privacy as a patient, along with offering solutions to waste, fraud, and many more issues within and surrounding the healthcare industry:

What is HiTech HIPAA?

HIPAA is considered the minimum standard for patient confidentiality, while the HiTech Act of 2009 was introduced to further expand on these protections. According to the HIPAA Journal, there were five goals set forth in the legislation:

  • To improve quality, safety, and efficiency.
  • To engage patients in their care.
  • To increase coordination of care.
  • To improve the health status of the population.
  • To ensure privacy and security.

The end result of the implementation of this legislation effectively promotes the use of health information technology to give patients even more control over their health records, which was bolstered by the adoption of the Health Information Exchanges as well as the security provisions issued in the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act.

What Does HiTech Stand For?

HiTech stands for Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. It was passed in 2009 after it was introduced as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As part of this economic stimulus package, it was created and signed into law by the Obama administration. The idea was to jumpstart the US economy. The HiTech Act was responsible for unprecedented gains in hospitals through the adoption of electronic records (EHRS) and more.

Why Was HIPAA Created and Passed?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA is a cornerstone of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. It was passed by the US Congress and later signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. Originally, it was founded to help Americans get more insurance and to prevent employees from losing health coverage between jobs, along with minimizing waste, fraud, and abuse in both health insurance and healthcare delivery. More recently, advances in technology have come along with new risks to patient personal information and privacy. This led to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which gave patients more control of their own records and set boundaries on important information usage and the release of this information. It addressed the issues brought on by innovative technology, such as apps and more, that could also have access to patient information but were not currently under any regulations.

HIPAA vs HiTech: What is the Difference?

The main difference between HiTech and HIPAA is how these acts uniquely protect. For example, HIPAA basically covers the security and privacy of health records, whether they are electronically based or not. While HiTech, which is now part of HIPAA, is designed to secure electronic records and address data breaches. Healthcare providers need to have a good understanding of both aspects of the law and how they work together to protect patients’ rights in various forms.

HITech & HIPAA Security Standards and Regulations

To put it simply, HiTech effectively enhanced HIPAA in several key areas, which has led to adjustments when it comes to compliance with both. The primary change that has impacted the standards and regulations of HiTech and HIPAA is the fact that it has upgraded the security to include electronic records. Some of the newer rules that are now mandatory or standard requirements include:

  • Access Control: Giving electronic access to potentially personal information must include authentication procedures to keep patients safe.
  • Encryption: Another aspect of these standards includes adding encryption to all devices that digitally store health information.
  • Access Log Usage: This allows access to determine when the information or data has either been accessed or modified and by whom.
  • Audit Monitoring: The audit procedure is in place to ensure continued and complete compliance with all regulations and standards.
  • Risk Assessments: Another element of keeping information safe includes conducting risk assessments to look for potential threats and also addressing any vulnerabilities that might exist.

Other Aspects of Keeping The Mandates

In addition, while HIPAA primarily focused on compliance among doctors, their offices, medical researchers, and insurance companies, along with similar companies, the HiTech Act expanded this regulation to include any “business associates,” which means it can include subcontractors and more who process any sort of patient information on behalf of the aforementioned entities. Therefore, in this instance, a SaaS business, though not in the medical arena, would also have to adhere to these regulations if they provide doctors or hospitals with cloud services that are used to store or share patient data.

Regulated Breech Notification Expanded by HiTech Regulations

The HiTech also made it mandatory for any business or healthcare provider who experiences a data breach to notify the individuals that their information might be compromised. In fact, the notification has to come within 60 days, as stated by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, if the data breach in question could potentially impact over 500 different records, then the companies are required to notify media outlets as well.

NonCompliance Penalties Have Expanded

In addition to all the other ways that HiTech has modernized the HIPAA guidelines, it also increased the severity of the penalties associated with noncompliance. Before this act, standard HIPAA guidelines were not that strict, making obeying these rules nearly inconsequential. Now, thanks to the addition of the HiTech Act and other changes to the guidelines, there is a four-tiered penalty system that makes breaking these regulations a lot more problematic.

Why This All Matters For Patients Today

To sum up, this all matters because both the HiTech and the HIPAA guidelines are designed to cut down on data breeches, and make the entire healthcare system run more efficiently. While it might have been difficult for some organizations early on to make the necessary changes for compliance, today, patients’ information is more accessible to them while being more protected from those who do not need access to it, which is possible thanks in large part to these two standards of protection.

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