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There are laws in place to protect the privacy of patients and students. Continue reading to learn the difference between HIPAA and FERPA.

What is HIPAA? 

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Under this federal law, patient health information is protected and kept secure unless the patient gives consent to disclose their information. The patient has control of who has access to their records. 


It’s a national mandate to keep protected health information (PHI) secure. At its core, HIPAA regulates the privacy of health information on a national level. 


PHI includes:


  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your Social Security Number 
  • Medical records 
  • Any unique identifiers 

For example, if parents of a college student call their child’s doctor for an after-visit summary, the office will not be able to disclose any information without the child’s consent. 


Who has to Follow HIPAA Rules? 

Any entity that falls under the category of “covered entities,” must always enforce HIPAA law. These include:


  • Health care providers
  • Health Care Clearinghouses 
  • Health Care Plans
  • Business Associates 


Why is HIPAA Important 

HIPAA keeps personal information secure for patients. It helps build trust between the entity holding private medical information and the patient. Allowing patients the choice to disclose records to whoever they decide keeps sensitive information safe from landing in the wrong hands.  


HIPAA Violations Examples 

HIPAA violations breach patient confidentiality and can result in fines and penalties. Common violations include: 


  • Cyber-attacks or breaches in security 
  • Lack of data encryption 
  • Sending the wrong PHI to a patient 
  • Discussing PHI outside of work 
  • Posting PHI on social media 
  • Theft of equipment that has PHI 
  • Incorrectly disposing of patient records 


What is FERPA

FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that was implemented in 1974. This law is another federally mandated law that regulates the privacy of student information on a national level. It protects the privacy of student school records that the education system holds. 


Parents or legal guardians have access to the records and can have the records amended, and have the ability to disclose personally identifiable information from education records to their discretion until the student is 18 years old. 


According to the CDC, FERPA serves these two main purposes:


  1. “Gives parents or eligible students more control of their educational records. 
  2. Prohibits educational institutions from disclosing ‘personally identifiable information in education records’ without written consent.” 


Who Has to Follow FERPA Rules?

Any of the following public and private education systems are required to follow FERPA policy when they receive federal funding:


  • Elementary schools 
  • Secondary schools 
  • Post-secondary schools 
  • State and local education agencies 


Why is FERPA Important? 

FERPA is important because it allows students, parents, and legal guardians the ability to review school records, request any corrections that need to be made, and control who has access to the student’s personal identification information.


The education system must request consent from the student, parent, or legal guardian before releasing any personally identifiable information to keep the student’s information safe from the wrong hands. 


FERPA Violations Examples 

The federal government will revoke federal funding to education systems that violate FERPA regulations. Common FERPA violations include: 


  • The education system refuses to provide school records to the student, parents, or legal guardians.
  • School employees who, even unintentionally, disclose the academic standing of one student to other students. 
  • Telling parents about other child’s academic standing that is not their own. 
  • Posting student grades in public places with their names attached 
  • Allowing a parent volunteer to grade the exams of other students



Both HIPAA and FERPA are nationally mandated laws that protect information. HIPAA keeps medical records secure while FERPA keeps education records private. Failure to comply with either results in fines, penalties, or revocation of funding. 


For more information about protected health information, read our article here

infographic explaining the difference between HIPAA and FERPA

The healthcare industry has many acronyms to keep track of.


For example, HIPAA for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, CDC for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more. When it comes to keeping your personal records as secure as you want them to be, let’s dive into PHI, what it stands for, and why it’s important for you.

What Does PHI Stand For?

PHI stands for Protected Health Information. PHI is part of HIPAA regulations that protect patients’ personal health information. Under the act, patients have the right to disclose or withhold their information as they see fit.

What is PHI?

PHI is a national standard that any entity—businesses, converted entities, etc.—must uphold if they have private records. They must protect PHI, physical and electronic, from anyone without proper consent from obtaining it.


PHI includes an array of personal information that makes a person identifiable, including:


  • Name
  • Birthday
  • Phone number
  • Social security number
  • Photos
  • Medical records
  • Address
  • Unique identifiers


ePHI is any type of protected health information that is stored electronically. 

Why is PHI Important?

PHI should stay personal and private. The patient should be the one who can disclose who they want to grant access to their personal medical records. This helps keep hackers and identity thieves away from patients’ private information.

What is the Difference between PHI and ePHI?

ePHI, as mentioned earlier, is electronically protected health information. Electronic data is more easily accessed and shared, which makes ePHI more protected by federal law. ePHI must meet the HIPAA Security Rule, HIPAA Privacy Rule, and the HITECH Act.


All are set in place to protect patients’ personal information from the wrong hands.

What is HIPAA? 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was created in 1996 to keep patient health information safe and secure. Under HIPAA, PHI can only be given with patient consent. 


Covered entities must always follow and enforce HIPAA law. Different types of covered entities include:


  • Health care providers
  • Business associates
  • Health care plans
  • Health care clearinghouses


Maintaining HIPAA compliance keeps personal information secure and builds trust between patients and covered entities.


How Does HIPAA Protect Your PHI?


The HIPAA Security Rule requires covered entities to protect against reasonab

ly anticipated threats to the security of PHI. Covered entities must implement safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI; however, HIPAA is not technology-specific and the exact safeguards implemented are left to the discretion of the covered entity.


HIPAA requires physical, technical, and administrative safeguards:

  • Physical safeguards for PHI data include keeping physical records and electronic devices containing PHI under lock and key.
  • Technologies such as encryption software and firewalls are covered under technical safeguards.
  • Administrative safeguards include access controls to limit who can view PHI information. It is a requirement that staff are provided HIPAA security awareness training.

Have more questions? Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page here. 

PHI stands for Protected Health Information. It protects patients’ identifiable information from falling into the wrong hands.


Article originally published on SBMA Benefits