Tag Archive for: phi

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, covered entities, etc.—must uphold if they have private records. They must protect PHI, both physical and electronic, from unauthorized access.

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 reasonably 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: Keeping physical records and electronic devices containing PHI under lock and key.
  • Technical safeguards: Implementing technologies such as encryption software and firewalls.
  • Administrative safeguards: Access controls to limit who can view PHI information. It is a requirement that staff are provided HIPAA security awareness training.

How to Maintain HIPAA Compliance

Maintaining HIPAA compliance is an ongoing process. Here are some best practices:

  1. Regular Training: Ensure all employees are regularly trained on HIPAA compliance and updates.
  2. Risk Assessments: Conduct regular risk assessments to identify and mitigate potential vulnerabilities.
  3. Access Controls: Implement strict access controls to limit PHI access to authorized personnel only.
  4. Incident Response Plans: Develop and maintain incident response plans to address potential breaches swiftly.
  5. Encryption: Use strong encryption methods for both stored and transmitted PHI.

The Role of Technology in Protecting PHI

Technology plays a critical role in protecting PHI. Here are some technological measures to consider:

  • Encryption: Encrypt data both at rest and in transit to protect against unauthorized access.
  • Firewalls: Use firewalls to prevent unauthorized access to your network.
  • Anti-Malware Software: Install and regularly update anti-malware software to protect against malicious attacks.
  • Secure Communication Channels: Use secure channels for communication that involves PHI, such as encrypted emails or secure messaging platforms.

Common HIPAA Violations and How to Avoid Them

HIPAA violations can result in significant fines and penalties. Here are some common violations and tips on how to avoid them:

  1. Unauthorized Access: Ensure only authorized personnel have access to PHI.
  2. Improper Disposal: Dispose of PHI properly, using methods such as shredding paper records and securely deleting electronic files.
  3. Lack of Training: Provide regular HIPAA training for all employees.
  4. Data Breaches: Implement robust security measures to protect against data breaches.
  5. Unsecured PHI: Always secure PHI, whether it is stored physically or electronically.

Final Notes

Understanding and adhering to PHI and HIPAA regulations is crucial for any entity handling health information. By implementing stringent safeguards and regularly updating your practices, you can protect your patients’ information and maintain their trust.

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

Article originally published on SBMA Benefits