HR Support on HIPAA Compliance

Editor's Note: Know the differences between HIPAA's privacy and security rules!

Tracy MorleyOverview: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules and the enforcement provisions surrounding them are of paramount importance to HR.

HIPAA's Privacy Rule sets standards for the protection of certain health information and addresses the use and disclosure of individual health information, more commonly known as protected health information or PHI. The objective of the Privacy Rule is to protect the privacy of medical information while, at the same time, allowing the flow of necessary information to provide high quality health care.

While the Privacy Rule deals with the use and disclosure of PHI, HIPAA's Security Rule establishes standards to protect an individual's electronic protected health information, or ePHI. The Security Rule attempts to ensure the security of ePHI through the use of administrative, physical and technical safeguards and applies only to electronically transmitted or stored PHI and not to oral or written PHI.

The Health Information and Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, or HITECH Act, made significant changes to HIPAA's Privacy and Security rules in the areas of enforcement provisions, notification of breach requirements, access to electronic health records and the definition of business associate.

Trends: A major provision of the HITECH Act is to improve enforcement of HIPAA violations. The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has stepped up its enforcement of compliance with the privacy, security and breach notification rules in this regard.

Author: Tracy Morley, SPHR, Legal Editor

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