The modern health care industry is affected by the issue of confidentiality. It relates to the manner in which nurses communicate with patients and their families, as well as each other. The breach of patient information is considered a breach of the current code of ethics for nurses. The code stresses the importance of privacy in advocating and promoting the rights of patients. Regardless of the introduction of modern technology, the issues of confidentiality still exist. The patient’s information that is private and confidential remains breached, calling for the need for numerous changes in the healthcare sector. The changes are important as they prompt nurses to keep patients’ information private. Therefore, the policy of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is aimed at addressing the challenges of confidentiality as described in this paper.
HIPAA Privacy Rules
HIPAA encompasses privacy rules that are meant to safeguard the patient’s private information. It is also referred to as Protected Health Information (PHI). The law was enacted to protect personal private information. Thus, HIPAA ensures that any health information regarding the private life of a patient is protected. However, it does not matter whether the information is recorded, oral, or written. The law safeguards health information which is created or received through a health plan, life insurer, university, public health authority, or an employer. In addition, the law protects information which relates to the present, past or future of an individual. In all these ways, nurses and other healthcare providers are required to protect health information in whichever medium.
The privacy rule of HIPAA also ensures that the medical records that relate to healthcare clearinghouses and health plans are protected. In this, other personal health information is protected by health plans, healthcare providers, and healthcare clearinghouses. The services that are conducted electronically are monitored in the duty to protect patient information. The appropriate safeguards are required for the rule to work effectively. In other words, conditions and limits are set on the disclosures and use that cover patients’ rights for confidential information. These include the right to obtain health care records and examine corrections.
According to the rule, the specific health plans should ensure confidential information is protected. Every healthcare provider is also required to transmit health information in connection with certain transactions. Authorization requests are ensured before the information is transmitted electronically. It also guarantees that third parties are not involved in the transmission of personal health information. In the health care clearinghouses, information that is nonstandard is kept in a standard form. In these clearinghouses, individually identifiable information is provided to the healthcare provider or the health plan. Disclosures and uses are availed to help protect the data. These include; value-added networks and billing services, among others that enable the clearinghouses to function in the required manner.
To prevent the breach of confidential information, HIPAA ensures that certain uses and disclosures are authorized. In this, the patient or the individual must provide written authorization for any disclosure of protected information. The information could be related to payment, health, or other operations of healthcare. The authorization should relate to the privacy rule as reflected by HIPAA. Disclosures that require authorization from the patient include the results of a lab test, coverage purposes of a life insurer, or pre-employment physical tests. The authorization should be written in a language that many people can understand. It should contain specific information that needs to be used or disclosed. The individuals who are required to disclose the information should also be specified. The privacy rule expresses other legal permissions such as the right to revoke in writing to ensure that confidential information is kept private.
Roles of HIPAA
HIPAA has been levied with the task of ensuring privacy in the healthcare sector. It also ensures that confidential information does not land in the hands of unauthorized persons. In this, the law preserves health information regardless of the type of transmission. For instance, health information should be protected regardless of whether it is transmitted through paper, verbal, or electronic means. The privacy rule sets the roles of HIPAA and ensures that the baseline requirements, which entail confidentiality, are provided.
Among the roles of HIPAA is to protect the health records of individuals as well as other personally identifiable information which has been created by the specific healthcare or provider. In this, information that is received by business associates or other covered entities should be maintained. It is the role of HIPAA to ensure that the personal health information of individuals is protected. The law ensures that the circumstances covered by entities that disclose or use the information are regulated. For instance, individuals who permit marketing agencies to use their health information are required to submit an authorization form, among other important statements. HIPAA is mandated to provide individual rights such as the extent to which information should be disclosed or used. In this, individuals are also given the right to obtain and examine a copy of the request corrections and health records.
It is the role of HIPAA to take legal actions to individuals in cases where confidential identifiable information is leaked to unauthorized individuals. Even though HIPAA does not provide the right for individuals to file lawsuits, one may still obtain the basis of the suit through breach of confidentiality or the torts of invasion of privacy. In short, the necessary legal actions are taken by the law. The legal actions of HIPAA following the breach of private information require business associates and covered entities to provide the notification. Regarding the protected health information, similar provisions are also available at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
HIPAA enforces civil and criminal penalties to individuals who are found with confidential identifiable information. A civil structure that prevents civil violations was established in 2009. The amount of penalty is based on the extent and nature of the violation, as well as the extent and nature of the harm caused by the violation. The time period for corrections is believed to be 30 days or longer, except under the cases of willful neglect. Criminal penalties are also subjected to individuals who are held liable under HIPAA. The specified individuals, covered entities, and others who disclose individually identifiable information face a fine of not less than $50,000. It is apparent that some offenses are committed under false pretenses. In this, the fine is usually increased to $100,000. This fine is inclusive of a five-year jail term. The penalty may be up to ten years in prison with an additional $250,000 if the offense was committed with the intent to transfer, sell, or use health information for profitable means.
Individuals who leak confidential information are entitled to covered entities; which include; health care clearinghouses, health plans, and healthcare providers, as noted in the above context. An individual can also be held liable under HIPAA as reflected by the principles of corporate criminal liability. The individuals who are held liable under HIPAA through a covered entity can be charged with aiding or conspiracy and abetting. The legal actions conducted by HIPAA to individuals for leaking confidential health information are regulated by the Department of Justice. Nurses and other healthcare providers are aware of the legal actions that relate to the privacy of patients. Therefore, the violation of this law is believed to have occurred with the consent of the health care provider. It is perceived to be a criminal liability, whereby certain actions should be taken in relation to the HIPAA statute.
HIPAA has a number of exceptions that relate to the manner in which it conducts its roles. The law is not applicable in cases where personally identifiable information is passed through writing or by oral means owing to the fact that it is difficult to provide evidence through the mentioned exceptions. In this, the flow of information is vital to the modernization of general health. The health standards are also improved through the flow of information that is ensured by HIPAA.
The disclosure of personal health information is allowed by HIPAA in cases health oversight activities are concerned. Some of the oversight health activities that are allowed by the law include; inspe