H.I.P.P.A as it applies to healthcare providers and their patients:

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The federal law originated in 1996 and protects the privacy of a patient's personal and health information. The purpose of HIPAA is to keep medical records and other individually identifiable health information completely private. HIPAA gives patients increased control over their health information.

HIPAA is very important to health care providers of all specialties because patient privacy is a top priority.

Information protected by HIPAA includes anything oral or recorded in any form or medium. All information, whether in the past, present, or future, is safeguarded. Physical and psychological health conditions, provisions of care, and payment information are all protected. Examples of protected health information:

        Patient's name, address, birthdate, age, phone and fax numbers, and email addresses

        Medical records, diagnoses, lab work and test results, medical images, and prescriptions

        Billing records, claim data, referral authorizations, and explanations of benefits

        Electronic records, paper records, and oral communications

Healthcare providers are obligated to carefully manage and protect patients' personal information. Healthcare providers are allowed to use patient information for treatment of the patient and healthcare operations, such as audits, quality improvement, teaching, and government reporting.

Access to healthcare information by healthcare providers is based on "need to know" and "minimum necessary" principles. Healthcare workers should only access information if it is necessary for providing the best patient care. When information is accessed, only the minimum amount of data necessary should be retrieved. Information can be communicated between healthcare providers, such as nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and lab technicians, as long as they are involved in the patient's care. Information may also be communicated to family and friends of the patient if they are involved in the patient's care, unless a patient has objected to sharing personal information. Parents, guardians, and medical powers of attorney can be spoken with as if they are the patient.

Healthcare workers are specially trained about HIPAA and keeping your personal information confidential.

Under HIPAA, personal healthcare information can be released to law enforcement without patient permission under certain circumstances. These include:

        Court orders and subpoenas

        Identifying suspects, witnesses, or missing persons

        Reporting about victims of crime, neglect, or abuse

For any other uses, an authorization form must be signed by the patient prior to the release of information. There is special protection for:

        Psychotherapy notes

        Drug and alcohol abuse treatment records

        Research records

        Communicable disease information

        HIV/AIDS status

        Genetic testing

        Evaluation and treatment of mental health disorders