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Health care professionals and Protected Health Information

September 10, 2018

When it comes to the daily task of protecting patient information, doctors, nurses and other health care professionals face laws and regulations that are continually in flux. A person’s license as a doctor, nurse or other health care worker does not extend to business or technology expertise, and professionals may feel overwhelmed by the increasing number of health care laws and regulations.

Despite professionals’ best efforts to keep up with ongoing changes, there are always opportunities to misunderstand a new IT ruling or overlook a regulatory change. Here are five laws focused on protecting personal health information.

1. Patient privacy

The purpose of the Privacy Act of 1974 is to regulate information the government collects. The Act permits people to know what information organizations, agencies, facilities and others have gathered about them and to ensure that it is correct.

2. Alcohol and drug confidentiality

The Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records regulation protects the privacy of anyone participating in a drug or alcohol abuse program.

3. Specialized services

Part of the Medicare laws that regulate providers, the Conditions for Coverage of Specialized Services, requires that Protected Health Information, or PHI, not only be confidential, but that it also has protection against destruction and unauthorized use.

4. Health care facilities accreditation

A private organization, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, accredits hospitals and health care facilities. The operating rules are always under review.

5. Technology innovations

The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012 recommended improvements in health care delivery over mobile apps and other systems. Informatics, the use and management of patient health care information, relies on innovations in Health Information Technology, better known as HIT. Like most of today’s technology, it is a field that is constantly changing and one with which health care professionals often struggle to keep current.


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