What Clinics and Organizations do to Protect Medical Information

Osmosis Team
Nov 6, 2016

There are many laws that are meant to protect patients and their information. Not everyone really understands the laws, protocols, and regulations that clinics use. It can range from a doctor or nurse refusing to disclose patient information to the technology that clinics implement protections.

There are laws that doctors’ offices and clinics must abide by. The HIPAA law is one that most know about. Each of these two laws works together to create privacy and discretion. It may be a bit confusing, but let’s discuss this in ways that people without a master’s degree can understand.

What is the HIPAA Law?

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This law was implemented in 1996 to protect patients' information. This law is also known as the Privacy Rule. It may be easier to remember that compared to the long acronym (HIPAA).

Your health care providers should all have you sign an HIPAA form. It may be something stating that your information is protected and will only be used with your permission or in case of an emergency. Most doctors will ask you to sign a form that releases certain information to other health care providers. They can only release it to very specific parties without your permission.

Clinics and doctors’ offices have personnel that have been trained in these areas and are well educated. Meaningful Use consulting educates health care professionals about the laws, regulations, and protocols that they must follow.

There are only a few parties that have access to your medical records without your permission. Three of these organizations/companies are life insurers, employers or schools and government agencies. The government would only really have access to your records if you receive government assistance in the form of Medicare or Medicaid. Also, the Social Security Administration may take a look at your files in order to establish your ability to join specific programs.

In simple terms, a health care provider can only disclose your personal information with your permission, unless in dire situations. Most of the time patients will designate a person who can make decisions for them if the patient is ever incapable.

What if there is an emergency?

In case of an emergency laws have used something called the Power of Attorney. Designating a power of attorney gives someone of your choosing the right to handle your legal and financial affairs if you ever find yourself unable to do so. Such as, if a patient ever has surgery and happens to be unconscious when a dire situation arises, the power of attorney has the ability to make judgment calls on the patient’s behalf.

When signing a power of attorney form, you will be able to either give very clear instructions or let them control whatever needs to be done when you’re unable to handle it yourself. That’s what’s really nice about the power of attorney, compared to just letting someone have free reign over your affairs.

What does the Medical Information Bureau do?

Other places, such as the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), only have access to your information if you sign a release of information. This organization is only used in specific cases where the patient applied for individually underwritten health, life, disability or long-term care.

One of the things a patient should know is that the MIB (Medical Information Bureau) does not store or keep any of your medical records or information. In order for the MIB to receive your information/records, you would first sign a document approving this action. They also do not submit any of your records to any third parties that are not associated with your particular cases.

What can I do to protect myself?

Some organizations will actually sell your information for money. This action is considered fraudulent and punishable by fines and jail time. With organizations such as these, you need not concern yourself with such troubles. Your information is safe. Make sure you read every document before you sign it to make sure that your information isn’t getting passed on to a company that you know nothing about. Staying informed and educated is the best way to protect your information. Clinics and doctors’ offices will provide you with whatever information you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification as well. Administrators have access to a lot of information and can be of great help. Always ask what it is your signing; you don’t want your information passed on to a third party.