HIPAA does much more than simply protect the privacy of your medical history; it also guarantees you the right to view your own medical records, which is a major innovation in health care. Here’s your quickie pocket guide to everything you need to know about HIPAA.

What Do the Letters Stand For, Anyway?

They stand for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. First created in 1996, this evolving set of federal laws contains a Privacy Rule and a Security Rule. That may sound simple, but in fact HIPAA is a cluster of detailed regulations, and health care personnel have to take classes just to manage all the rules correctly. You don’t need to learn the fine print, but it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of your rights under this law.

Can I Access My Medical Records?

Absolutely. HIPAA gives you the right to your own medical records, and you can choose whether you want this information online or in paper form. Just let your provider’s office staff know that you want a copy of your medical records. The only exception to this access are the treatment notes written by a psychotherapist or counselor.

Am I Allowed to Share My Own Records?

Yup. They’re yours and you can do whatever you want with them. If you really want to, you can post them on your Facebook page (although we can’t imagine why you’d want to). But you can email copies of them to a family member or carry the paper file with you when you keep an appointment with a specialist. You can also authorize any provider to talk with a family member about any aspect of your medical condition.

If I’m Unconscious, Are My Records Still Protected?

This is a bit tricky. Treatment of acute conditions can be fast-paced and improvisational, so if your friend brings you to the emergency room, the medical staff is allowed to share information with that person about your immediate medical condition. They will not, however, allow your friend to read your medical records and they won’t answer questions about your unrelated medical issues. You can also specify people or entities with whom your records are NOT to be shared, and your providers have to abide by your wishes unless they receive a subpoena from a court.

What’s the HIPAA Security Rule About?

It sets standards for protecting your information on computer systems while it’s being passed between doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and insurance companies.

Our licensed brokers are here to answer your questions about health insurance coverage or the rights you have as a medical consumer. Call us and make an appointment if you’d like to talk anytime.

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