USA – Scope of HIPAA

April 1, 2016Articles DataGuidance

HIPAA, short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a familiar term to most people, but when and how it applies often confounds healthcare professionals, business executives and attorneys alike, let alone the general public. Over the course of the almost 20 years of HIPAA's existence, this confusion persists and has even intensified in an age in which there is instantaneous and continuous global reporting of the struggle of large retail companies, sophisticated financial institutions, healthcare providers large and small and government agencies to deal with data security breaches. Recent news stories about patients suffering from certain conditions (Zika and Ebola, for example) or about healthcare information of famous or high-profile patients raises questions as to when and whether HIPAA protects their health information, and the most recently adopted HIPAA regulations (known as the 'Omnibus Rule') triggered new, more detailed compliance obligations.

A HIPAA misstep can have serious legal, financial and reputational consequences, so understanding what HIPAA protects and requires is critical for any person or business that touches health information. This article is not intended to detail each and every HIPAA requirement and nuance, but to list a sequence of basic questions whose answers can be used as fundamental building blocks for HIPAA compliance.

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