HIPAA is perhaps most well known for its Privacy Rule. The intent of the Privacy Act is to give people more control over the sharing of their personal medical information, while at the same time making it easier for them to access details about their own health and healthcare.
Protecting Your Information From Others
According to the Privacy Rule, healthcare providers cannot reveal your health information to employers or others who are not entitled to view it. For example, they may not pass on information to companies who are thinking about hiring you, or who want to sell you their latest cures or devices. Also, they may not share any information about mental health consultations.
The Privacy Rule protects information in your medical record, conversations your doctor has with nurses or other medical professionals about your care or treatment, information in your insurer's computer system, billing information, and most other health information.
However, there are cases when information can be legally shared. Your health information can be shared for certain reasons, including:
- Doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies for purposes of billing and payment or to coordinate care
- Anybody in or out of your family whom you designate to help you with your healthcare
- Safety regulators looking into care at nursing homes
- Public health officials under some circumstances (eg, reporting when the flu is in your area)
- Police when a crime is committed
Granting You Greater Access to Your Own Information
The Privacy Act also gives you greater access to this information. Whereas at one time it was often difficult to view your own medical charts and files, you now have the right to know anything pertaining to your health. Under HIPAA, you are legally entitled to:
- Receive a copy of your health record if you ask for it
- Make corrections in the official file
- Be told how your health information is used and who it is shared with
- Choose whether you want your information to be shared
You also have the right to file a complaint with your healthcare provider or with the federal Office of Civil Rights if you think your information has been misused. Call the regional Civil Rights office nearest you for more information. You will be asked to provide the specifics of what happened and the reason for your complaint.