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What is HIPAA?

When you head to the hospital in Kew Gardens, any concern that you may have regarding what could potentially go wrong with your visit is likely limited to complications with your procedure or possibly acquiring an infection. These are the types of hospital errors that typically make headlines. However, there is another type of error whose damage may not be immediately apparent, but can ultimately cause just as much chaos in your life as any type of physical harm: the unauthorized disclosure of information from your medical record.

Fortunately, you are protected from unapproved information sharing by HIPAA. What is HIPAA? According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, it is formally known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. However, many simply refer to it as the Privacy Rule. Simply stated, HIPAA does not allow healthcare providers or insurance plans to disclose information from your medical record without your consent.

The information protected under HIPAA includes:

  •          Any information that can be used to identify you (i.e., your name, date of birth, Social Security number)
  •          Details regarding your past, present, or future medical condition
  •          Information detailing any care or treatment you have received
  •          Details regarding your method of paying for your care

It is, of course, expected that information from your medical record must be shared in certain situations. Thus, HIPAA does recognize some scenarios where information can be disclosed without needing your consent. These include cases to help facilitate your care and the payment of insurance claims, for certain public relations purposes, for research opportunities, and for general hospital uses for which you have the right to disagree to. In each aforementioned case, only basic information may be given before your permission to disclose anything further is needed.  

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