If you’ve visited a medical institution in recent years, you surely have encountered forms referring to “HIPAA.”
Even if the forms were explained to you in detail, there’s a good chance that HIPAA is still slightly confusing. We’d like to give our readers a brief, basic explanation of HIPAA and discuss how it helps (rather than hinders) our teleradiology capabilities here at Lubbock Diagnostic Radiology.
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA stands for the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,” which was introduced in 1996. This act dictated that the Department of Health and Human Services protect the privacy and security of the nation’s health information by creating specific guidelines for its handling and use.
HIPAA guidelines are designed to protect the integrity and privacy of patient’s protected health information (PHI). In terms of privacy, this means that patient's PHI can only be viewed by certain, authorized individuals. In terms of integrity, the guidelines ensure that a patient's PHI cannot be altered or destroyed without proper authorization.
Navigating HIPAA in Teleradiology
Because radiology facilities can range from simple to complex, the HIPAA waters can get a little muddy. We would like to try and break down the HIPAA process to help you better understand the guidelines and procedures.
A simple radiology facility might be located within a hospital, handling only the PHI of individuals treated within that facility. A complex radiology facility often interacts and shares information with multiple facilities, sometimes even those located out-of-state.
Because the HIPAA guidelines cover such a wide range of medical facilities, they are flexible and a little vague in nature. Because the penalties for violating HIPAA compliance are quite steep, it’s important to be vigilant in your efforts to remain compliant. While this vagueness can be intimidating, there are ways to work toward compliance that will ultimately aid in the efficiency of your facility.
- Establish Responsibility: Never assume that an entity or individual is following HIPAA guidelines. If a medical facility shares PHI with another facility, it’s important to ensure that each entity is following HIPAA guidelines, and to establish which entity holds the most responsibility for compliance.
- HIPAA Implementation Committee: Ask if your healthcare provider has a committee that is specifically dedicated to comprehensive HIPAA compliance. Areas that should be included are: Administration and Operations, Billing and Collections, Technologists, Site Managers, Medical Directors, Information Services, and Non-management Staff Members.
Proactive vigilance toward HIPAA compliance is especially necessary in a facility that practices teleradiology. The amount of information being shared between facilities is vast, and if not properly monitored, can cause many compliance problems.
HIPAA: A Framework for Efficiency
Here at LDR, PHI security and integrity is a high priority. Rather than viewing HIPAA guidelines as a series of hoops to jump through, we embrace the opportunity they provide for structure and accuracy.
Providing fast, accurate reads to facilities in remote locations has been made possible for us by the digitalization of PHI and radiology imaging. The introduction of HIPAA privacy and security rules gives us a framework on which to base our information sharing practices, so that we can communicate better and more effectively with physicians while maintaining the privacy of your PHI.
Here at Lubbock Diagnostic Radiology, we make it a priority to work with HIPAA-compliant facilities. These guidelines allow us to provide a fast, accurate, and secure service to surrounding medical entities and the patients they serve.