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HIPPA Data Security - How HITECH is Your Doctor?

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As the medical community becomes a stronger force to be reckoned with, many people are fearful of the sheer power hospitals and doctors have over them. For all those concerned, there is good news.





As the medical community becomes a stronger force to be reckoned with, many people are fearful of the sheer power hospitals and doctors have over them. Many are afraid that the free and easy access to confidential patient files could be used against them to the detriment of their careers, finances and personal lives. Most others just feel it's an invasion of privacy to give full access to these records and would like the files to be more carefully guarded. For all those concerned, there is good news.

In early 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) successfully passed in congress, which led to a new interest in patient privacy rights to sweep across the country. This act offers a whole new level of protection to all Americans who utilize health care services and should prevent many kinds of insurance fraud and other nightmares.

HITECH strongly emphasizes securing protected health information, or PHI for short. It also forces medical practitioners across the United States to prepare for the secure and safe use of your electronic medical records. HITECH does all this by changing breach notification requirements for protected information, which affects the business practices of more than your family doctor or dentist. Individuals, business associates and all covered entities as defined under HIPAA are all affected by the new act. Now, if there is a breach of unsecured PHI, the act requires that individuals be notified of unauthorized disclosures of their private health information.

In cases of breach, penalties can be extraordinary. This provides another safeguard against leaking private patient information. Perhaps the worst penalty dangling over the heads of the medical community is the act's requirement that the media must be notified if and when a breach occurs. This threat of bad PR is strong enough to prompt a complete overhaul of most practitioners' processes and technology. They may start by auditing the current data encryption methods, security and processes to determine the degree to which the practice or organization is in compliance with the data security requirements of HITECH.

Whichever doctor or dentist you choose should be running their office in total compliance with the protocols set forth by HITECH, and you have a right to know where they stand on this important issue. Get educated about their business and medical practices so that you can feel secure when you go in for a visit.

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