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Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Term Paper Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1238

Term Paper

Introduction

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which was established in 1996, has been significant in addressing health insurance coverage and the management of personal health information to promote confidentiality (California Department of Health Care Services, 2013).This Act led to sweeping changes in healthcare practice because it demonstrated the importance of maintaining privacy when addressing personal health-related matters and information (California Department of Health Care Services, 2013). This action established by the federal government has had mixed results within healthcare organizations, as patient information must be protected at all times without interference from unauthorized sources. However, this mandate has also been challenging in its efforts to ensure that health insurance would be available to patients, regardless of their medical history (Miller, 2001). Therefore, this Act continues to have a unique impact on healthcare practice and systems operations and control.

Analysis

HIPAA was developed to counteract some of the primary issues that have evolved over the past several decades in regards to the availability of health insurance. Seventeen years later, the affordability and choices involving health insurance remain a challenge for many Americans, even in the wake of the transition to Obamacare. From this perspective, it is important to recognize these concerns and how HIPAA sought to transform the way in which health insurance was provided, yet it did not come close to accomplishing these objectives. After HIPAA was enacted, there appeared to be a significant push towards health insurance for all persons. However, it became clear that the mandates set forth with this Act were difficult to achieve, due in large part to the limitations set forth by pre-existing health conditions (Miller, 2001). Health insurance providers were hesitant and were not required to accept consumers with specific limitations or existing health concerns that required significant care and treatment (Miller, 2001). Therefore, this Act in name only sought to provide affordable access and means to health insurance for those persons who otherwise could not obtain insurance (Miller, 2001).

The impact of HIPAA on the protection and confidentiality of health information has also been questionable over the past decade and a half. The questions raised have emerged primarily in the wake of access to information as transmitted across the Internet without difficulty. Similarly, individuals are able to breach websites and obtain confidential information under specific circumstances. Although a number of protections have been established to address these concerns, they are nonetheless challenged by the ability of hackers to compromise data and information and use it to their advantage. This is an ongoing and critical concern in sharing information online. Although most organizations with access to confidential health information take any and all precautions to protect this information, they nonetheless face these risks, as there is always a chance of breaching this information through different channels. As healthcare organizations expand their services to patients who are able to access their own personal health data, there is an increased risk of breach of confidentiality.

In many healthcare organizations, a typical office visit now requires a release form that must be read and signed to address the HIPAA regulation. This form is designed to protect patients from unnecessary risks involving their health information. However, with the availability of information using computers and the Internet, it is more important than ever to address the possibility that information may be compromised in one form or another. From this perspective, HIPAA represents a transition into a new era in regards to health information, as it is easily transmittable across different channels, including the Internet, and is also managed using different types of information systems. This is a challenging practice because although consumers possess greater access to their own health information, they also place this information at a greater risk by obtaining it and reviewing it under conditions that are not always secure. This is a difficult concept to consider and poses a much greater risk to patients under some conditions. It is more important than ever to address the concerns related to HIPAA that may compromise important and confidential health information in order to accomplish the desired objectives of the Act while protecting this data.

HIPAA is an essential component of healthcare practice because it supports patient privacy and the ability to have some degree of control over personal health information. This is the most important focus area of this law and has had a significant impact on how healthcare providers use health information. This law has also been instrumental in demonstrating that patients take healthcare information more seriously than ever and are concerned regarding the privacy of this information and how it is shared. Therefore, the requirement to address this process has been established in healthcare organizations to ensure that patients are aware of their rights and the level of privacy that is provided.

The evolution of HIPAA has been highly influential in supporting the development of healthcare information technologies. Since its beginnings in 1996, HIPAA has been important to information systems teams because the transmission of health information in an electronic format has been challenging due to privacy issues and the vulnerability of this information during transmission. Therefore, these systems have evolved with full consideration of HIPAA and how personal health information is used within databases and other frameworks. Healthcare information technologies continue to grow and expand in scope and complexity; therefore, it is important for HIPAA to remain a key priority within these systems so that patients experience a greater sense of comfort as related to the use of their personal information. Information technology experts must continue to evaluate the vulnerability of databases and other resources so that patient information is not compromised. This involves the ability to establish protective barriers and firewalls in order to achieve these objectives.

Conclusion

The development of an effective approach to managing health information requires an understanding of HIPAA and its impact on healthcare practices throughout the United States. Although this Act made an effort to address access to health insurance and the protection of confidential health information, it has been lackluster in its results and has not been able to enable individuals to have greater access to health insurance and resources. At the same time, the expansion of online portals to access confidential health information has been significant and demonstrates the impact of access to health-related information under specific circumstances. The evolution of HIPAA now perhaps has a different meaning from when it was first conceived, and therefore, warrants a different understanding and application within modern healthcare and information systems. These changes have evolved very quickly over the past decade and a half and support the ability of consumers to access their health information in the home or in a mobile environment; however, this ability also leads to any number of consequences if this information is breached and compromised by any outside sources. Therefore, although its original intent was strong, HIPAA has failed to provide the desired level of protection and support to consumers that were originally proposed, and has raised more questions regarding how health information and insurance are managed. Nonetheless, it is important to establish information systems that protect personal and private health information so that patient care is not compromised and patients feel more comfortable with their information being transmitted or shared with the appropriate parties.

References

California Department of Health Care Services (2013). Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Retrieved from http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/formsandpubs/laws/hipaa/Pages/1.00%20WhatisHIPAA.aspx

Miller, T. (2001). Making a federal case out of health care: five years of HIPAA. CATO Institute, retrieved from http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/making-federal-case-out-health-care-five-years-hipaa

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