All care providers have a responsibility to take necessary steps to maintain the confidentiality and trust of patients as we strive to improve healthcare quality.
The framework established by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
The HIPAA Privacy Rule, through “implied consent,” permits the sharing of medical information for specified identified healthcare priorities which include treatment, payment and healthcare operations (as expected by patients seeking medical care.) This model has served patients well by ensuring quick and appropriate access to medical care, especially in emergency situations where the patient may be unable to give written consent.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires that healthcare providers and health plans limit disclosure of protected health information to the minimum necessary to pay for healthcare claims and other essential healthcare operations. This practice provides privacy protection while allowing for continued operations. Minimum necessary is relatively easy and simple to administer and practice.
Personal health information must be secured and protected from misuses and inappropriate disclosures under applicable laws and regulations.
Providers should have as complete a patient’s record as necessary to provide care. Having access to a complete and timely medical record allows providers to remain confident that they are well-informed in the clinical decision-making process.
Privacy frameworks should be consistent nationally and across sectors so that providers, health plans, and researchers working across state lines and with entities governed by other privacy frameworks may exchange information efficiently and effectively in order to provide treatment, extend coverage, and advance medical knowledge, whether through a national health information network or another means of health information exchange.
For the last 20 years, the HIPAA privacy standards have engendered consumer trust. Any future legislation or rulemaking that addresses identifiable health information should conform with consumers’ expectations.