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HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act on Medical Transcription

Established in the year 1996, the HIPAA is an act that proposed and did set up a few regulations and laws to defend the privacy of an individual’s medical records. Initiated by the Department of Health and Human Services, the act controls and makes it illegal to distribute and transmittal of a patient’s private information with regard to his medical history.

To whom does the HIPAA Regulations Apply to?

The HIPAA has been design to have a wide application and a terrible reach to all sorts of people and firms. The major firms affected by the bill are those that transfer, store and enable distribution of health care reports in any format. Called as ‘Covered Entities’ these companies are affected by the bill directly and the clients to whom they service also come under the same.

Do Medical Transcriptions Come Under The Covered Entities?

The only criteria that marks the Medical Transcribing firms as Covered Entities is when they indulge in activities that are covered by the bill. But otherwise, they are known as Business Associates who “are not under the direct control of the Covered Entity, but act or function on behalf of a Covered Entity”. However there is a stark difference between the state laws and the National act. Some states even differ in the fundamental level and name the MTs as covered entities directly.

Though not governed directly by the HIPAA, the general norm that is followed between the covered entity and the business associates is that the latter should give a written statement giving the former an assurance that the documents and records handled will completely be safeguarded and this should be drafted in a written contract duly agreed by both the parties.

The HIPAA was very austere on the Covered Entities and thus this was reflected to the business associates too. The act thus indirectly extracted substantiate proofs from the MT services that the records and documents were clearly safe and the act was complied indirectly. It was mandatory that the MT services create an action plan beforehand, follow it up and review the same such that it obeyed the act and did nothing to deviate from it.

In What Way does Independent Medical Transcriptionists get affected by HIPAA?

Independent Medical Transcriptionists are third parties and are people who work under contractors indirectly and aid the Business Associates in their transcription works indirectly. They will also be governed by the Act in a roundabout manner. Since they have immediate access to the patient’s files, they have to agree upon stern and strict safety measures to ensure that the data is completely isolated from transmission. They have to write out a similar contract comparable to the one between the Business Associates and the Covered Entities with the former lot assuring them of all safety precautions.

From When Does the Act Hold Good?

The initial rule was passed by April 14, 2001. But it took two solid years to make the law mandatory and by April 14, 2003, all the entities covered had to mandatorily stick to the law and enforce strict measures according to its clause.

Does the Act Govern the Transmittal of Electronic Patient Information?

The Act also governed the electronic transfer of electronic patient information by unifying it as the standard ANSI X12 format which gave laws related to the content of the files and the format was also prescribed which had to be strictly adhered to.

Other Provisions Of The Act:

The main clause elaborated prohibition of any form of distribution of a patient’s healthcare information in any format that is available. If at all a necessary transfer of information was required, elaborate conditions were chalked out which had to be satisfied before transferring information.

The general rules stated that any information that revealed patients name, age or personal data, that will aid the identification of the individual, should not be given out or distributed through health records in any form (oral, paper or electronic).

To follow the rules strictly, the Covered Entities had to follow certain rules and steps that ensure protection of information. They are:

• Elaborate information, preferably written should be given to patients as to how safe their personal information is and if at all it needed distribution or disclosure, to who is will be done so etc.
• The individual must sketch out a written consent allowing the firm to maintain and process his/her personal information.
• Covered Entities should take all steps to preserve the information of the patients.
• Information should be shared to Business Associated only after providing with the necessary written assurances about how well the data will be protected.
• A separate individual must be employed to oversee the entire process and to keep a check on any sort of privacy measures being disrupted or covered. He/she should be available for receiving feedbacks from the customers and complaints regarding the same.
• Proper training should be given to all employees to cover up all the privacy policies and stick to the Acts rules and regulations.
• Technical, administrative and physical aid should be imparted to give maximum security to the data.

Penalties Involved if not complied.

Covered Entities which break the law and do not comply to the terms and conditions can be levied with a huge fine and sometimes inflicted with criminal charges that can lead to serious repercussions.

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