How New HIPAA Regulations Affect Nurses

How New HIPAA Regulations Affect Nurses

Mar 22, 2015 | 9:00 am

If you’re new to this topic, HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which was enacted by Congress in 1996. A large part of the law developed privacy rules in regards to health records and data security for patients in health care settings. While the law is important to patients and health care workers alike, HIPAA for nurses has had career changing effects.

The Effect of HIPPA for Nurses

At the time it passed, many nurses already felt overloaded and realized this meant more paperwork and procedural changes. According to The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, nurses recognized the importance of healthcare privacy and yet this required them to “convert years, sometimes decades, of paperwork to computer files, and impose additional work in other areas on health care organizations.”

It was a changing and growing system, and for the next 10 years, nurses learned new protocol when it came to recording, relaying and protecting a patient’s medical details. More updates and rule enhancements passed in the following years, and the Omnibus Final Rule in 2013 bolstered patient privacy protection, providing patients with new rights to their medical information while strengthening the government’s ability to enforce HIPAA. For nurses, this information is critical.

According to a 2013 press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these are some of the newest HIPAA rule enhancements:

•Patients have increased protection and control of personal health information—they can ask for an electronic copy of their electronic medical record and can also instruct providers not to share treatment information with their healthcare plan when paying cash.

•HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules have expanded from focusing on health care providers, health plans and companies that process health insurance claims to business associates of these entities that may receive this information—including contractors and subcontractors.

•Penalties for noncompliance jumped, depending on the level of negligence.

•New limits have been established on how medical information is used and disclosed for marketing and fundraising.

•Obligation to notify patients when there is a breach in their protected health information has changed; these rules have been expanded and further clarified.

The knowledge of HIPAA for nurses is vital—especially the newest rules. As the Oregon’s Nurses Association notes in an article that summarizes the Omnibus Final Rule, “With the potential for $1.5 million fines, not to mention serious reputational injury, these new rules must be taken seriously.”