Carol F. Barton
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a law that protects the privacy of medical records. The law was written for the protection of the patient/consumer. Basically, HIPAA:
- Gives patients more control over their health information
- Sets boundaries on the use and release of health records
- Establishes appropriate safeguards that the majority of healthcare providers must achieve to protect the privacy of health information
- Holds violators accountable with civil and criminal penalties that can be imposed if they violate patients’ privacy rights.
The penalties associated with HIPPA violations often make healthcare workers extremely cautious about sharing medical information with anyone but you, even spouses or close family members can be kept out of the loop about your treatment plan. The HIPAA authorization allows you to name an individual who can have access to your medical information so that your health care provider or insurance company have no reservations about sharing your protected medical information with them.
It is imperative that you sign a HIPAA release to allow your healthcare professionals to release your protected health care information and records to your healthcare agents and/or family members. For example, you may be admitted to an emergency room, or you may experience a medical event that leaves you unable to make decisions about your care. If you failed to sign a HIPAA release your family members or healthcare agents will be unable to obtain any information regarding your condition or be authorized to help in your treatment plan.