HIPAA Medical Records Release Laws – Overview
HIPAA medical records release laws compliance is extremely important for medical practitioners and storage software developers alike.
If they fail to comply with HIPAA record retention law, then they may end up paying hefty financial and economic penalties, and may even face jail time.
Though HIPAA is a federal law, state laws are also applied regarding medical records release laws. It is important to note that HIPAA laws may differ slightly in different states.
In this article, we shall take a closer look at the HIPAA medical records release laws.
What are HIPAA Regulations for Medical Records Release Laws?
HIPAA is an ongoing regulation and every healthcare organization and healthcare services provider needs to comply with these laws.
These laws have been designed to ensure the security, integrity and privacy of protected health information (PHI).
HIPAA laws regarding medical records are meant to ensure mandatory data storage and release policies which are to be followed by healthcare institutions and healthcare providers.
HIPAA regulations are among the most stringent of all state and federal laws regulating the healthcare industry.
HIPAA is a federal law so it is governed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
HIPAA was created as a regulatory standard for the health care industry.
This law is enforced by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR is responsible for providing continuous guidance to develop influential healthcare. The OCR also has the authority to investigate cases of HIPAA violations.
What is Protected Health Information (PHI)?
PHI, short for Protected Health Information, is an umbrella term used to denote a patient’s identifiable information (PII).
A PII may include the patient’s name, age, address, sex, and other health-related data which is usually collected and stored by medical practitioners with the help of special data storage software systems.
Such patient information is stored as confidential medical records with third-party service providers, such as insurance and billing companies.
So, for instance, if a patient is diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) then the patient’s information is protected health information (PHI) as it contains the patient’s PII details.
Hence, the patient’s PHI is protected by the HIPAA records retention laws.
ePHI (Electronically Protected Health Information) refers to the PHI that is shared, stored and accessed electronically, for instance, any medical record stored on computer software or platform.
The HIPAA Security Rule governs all electronically stored PHI data. This rule governs the ever-changing medical records storage software industry.
What happens when HIPAA Medical Records Release Laws are violated?
As PHI data is extremely sensitive and confidential, HIPAA compliance is strictly enforced. Any violation of HIPAA laws can result in hefty fines and significant penalties.
These strict penalties are in place to ensure that health care providers, hospitals and software developers comply completely with HIPAA laws.
These penalties are usually enforced on a tiered basis, depending on the severity, frequency and knowledge of non-compliance.
Under every tier, any repeated violation in the same calendar year can lead to penalties of US$ 1,650,300 per violation.
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) reserves the right to impose HIPAA non-compliance fines, even if no data breach in the ePHI is detected.
Such fines are usually imposed for lack of sufficient security measures, trained employees, or failure of healthcare practitioners or institutes to acquire a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with third-party service providers.
Are There different HIPAA Laws in the Different States?
Yes, the HIPAA regulations are federal laws and still, you may find slight differences in the law when comparing two different states.
Still, HIPAA remains one of the most comprehensive and effective documents which deals with the secure collection, retention and release of Protected Health Information (PHI).
To learn the specific HIPAA laws for your state, you can visit the state-specific organization responsible for enforcing HIPAA laws.
It is important for all health care providers, health care organizations and medical record storage service providers to know, and comply completely with their state-specific HIPAA rules and regulations.
This is an essential step to ensure that confidential medical and personal details are stored and shared with responsibility, in lieu of significant fines and penalties for non-compliant activities.