HIPAA Patient Rights and Consent Forms
Today's consumers are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to protecting their personal information. Meanwhile, many recent security breaches in the healthcare industry have gotten the public to question if their healthcare providers are doing enough to protect their sensitive data.
As a response to the general public's concern about the security of their personal and healthcare information, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was created. HIPAA allows patients access to and control over their health information, reduce healthcare fraud and abuse, implement industry-wide standards for healthcare data and ensure the security of confidential information.
The HIPAA patient rights is a centerpiece of this regulation, supported by the HIPAA patient consent form and the HIPAA release form.
What Are HIPAA Patient Rights?
HIPPA is designed to give patients access to and control over their health information while setting the rules and limits on who can receive and utilize such data.
Here are some key patient rights covered under HIPPA:
- Patients can request a notice of privacy practices (NPP) that explains how a healthcare provider or health plan uses and discloses their health information.
- Patients have the right to access and request a copy of their medical records (both paper and electronic versions), or request that information be sent to a third party (e.g., a relative or another healthcare provider.)
- Patients can request an amendment be made to their medical records.
- Patients have the right to request special privacy protection for their protected health information (PHI), and receive communications by alternative means or at alternative locations (e.g., a different mailing address).
- Patients have the right to know to whom their PHI has been disclosed; this is called an "accounting of disclosure," which needs to include the date of disclosure, the name and address of the entity receiving the information, a brief description of the PHI disclosed and a brief statement of the purpose of the disclosure.
- Under most circumstances, parents or guardians have the right to access a minor's medical records.
Individuals and organizations that must follow the HIPAA regulations are called "covered entities," which include health plans, most healthcare providers and healthcare clearinghouses.
Covered entities are required to safeguard patients' health information and ensure that it's not disclosed improperly or without prior authorization. For example, they need to put procedures in place to limit access to PHI and implement employee training programs to ensure the security of such information.
What's a HIPAA Patient Consent Form?
One of HIPAA's goal is to make it easy for patients to access their medical records. To release their health information to a third party for treatment, payment or healthcare operations, patients can complete and submit the HIPAA patient consent form.
Here are some circumstances under which PHI needs to be shared with other individuals or organizations:
- A patient may need to share their health information with doctors, hospitals or other healthcare providers.
- A patient might grant their attorney access to her PHI to prove that an injury wasn't pre-existing when pursuing an injury claim.
- A patient may provide permission for their healthcare agent to investigate a bill if they're hospitalized or incapacitated.
According to HIPAA standard of “minimum necessary,” the doctor or healthcare provider can only release information that's required to accomplish the intended purpose to the designated third party.
What's the HIPAA Release of Information?
While the patient consent form pertains to the release of information for use in treatment, payment or healthcare operations, a HIPAA release form is required if the PHI is to be used for other purposes, such as:
- Marketing and fundraising.
- The sale of PHI or sharing of such information that involves remuneration.
A HIPAA release form must contain the following information:
- How the information will be used or disclosed.
- The purpose of disclosing the information.
- To whom the information will be disclosed.
- An expiration date or event for such consent to use or disclose the information.
- A signature and date that the authorization is signed by the individual or the individual’s representative.
The form also needs to detail how an individual can revoke the authorization and indicate that the covered entity may not condition treatment, payment, enrollment or eligibility for benefits on whether the individual signs the authorization.
Empower Yourself as a Patient
HIPAA's patient rights and the PHI release process is designed to protect patients' personal information while empowering them to decide to whom the information can be disclosed and for what purpose. The HIPPA consent form and release form are put in place to give patients the key to their health information so they can control how their data can be used.
For healthcare providers and any entity handling PHI, it's critical to have the proper systems in place to protect patient information by choosing the right providers for all the systems that handle PHI.
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