Confidentiality, Privacy and Security: The Three Legs of Health Care Industry!

June 22, 2019

Today, the health care industry is one of the most booming industries of the world but it is also one of the few industries across the globe that is heavily regulated and is required to follow strict adherence to the compliances! If you are wondering why is that the case? Well, it is primarily because health care and medical processes have a direct impact on the patient’s well being and for this particular reason, health care industries are heavily regulated and it is of the utmost importance that the health care professionals strictly follow the compliances that have been laid down according to the industry.

In addition to following the compliances and regulations, it is also critical for any health care professional to ensure that the patient data is protected at all times – It is extremely crucial that the patient health information is not shared to any other than the concerned personnel and that the patient data is used very discreetly at all times.

Now, most of the times when health care professionals discuss how to protect patient’s medical information, it’s the HIPAA term that comes to the mind and while that is a critical compliance to follow, it is also important to understand the concepts of confidentiality, privacy and security. These three concepts may seem intertwined but they are very often interchangeably employed however; each of these is fundamentally different from one another! So let’s understand the whys and what’s of each of these concepts:

Confidentiality: The term confidentiality within the health care industry means that the health care professionals have a legal obligation towards keeping patient’s medical information confidential. This is also very clearly stated in the privacy rule of HIPAA! HIPAA terms that it is extremely crucial that health care professionals protect patient’s medical information at all times and do not disclose it to unauthorized professionals. HIPAA terms also state that any health care professional accessing the patient’s data must take all the reasonable steps to ensure that the confidentiality of patient data is not compromised!  

Privacy: The next term that health care professionals must understand is privacy which is very distinct from confidentiality. Privacy too safe guards’ the information but privacy is viewed as the individual’s right to keep their personal information to themselves. As a health care professional, one must understand that privacy of a patient means that they have rights to withhold or share their personal information. Just like the term confidentiality is governed by the privacy rules of HIPAA terms, the tern privacy is also very clearly explained here! The main aim of the privacy rule of HIPAA terms is to ensure that the health and medical information of each and every patient is protected at all times and under all circumstances.

Security: The last term that health care professionals must be aware of is the term security! Security literally means protection and within health care organizations, it specifically means protecting the privacy of health care information. Security also refers to providing support to health care professionals who are protecting this information i.e. they are fulfilling their duties of maintaining confidentiality. Security has always been an integral part of the health care system. Ever since the advent of professional health care entities and clinics, securities have been implemented to protect the patient data. For instance: Filing of medical records in a locked cabinet is one such example or the maintenance of confidential health care data in a locked room that is accessible only to authorized personnel through finger print is another such example. The overall goal of security is to provide protection so that the patient data is safely secured within the organization! Just like the way Privacy and confidentiality are governed by HIPAA terms, Security is also governed by the terms of HIPAA. To maintain the security within health care organizations, there is a specific security rule stated by HIPAA. You can find this security rule at subparts A and C of Part 164 and 45 CFR, Part 160. HIPAA terms dictate that when it comes to protecting patient’s personal information and medical health records, there should be a standardized procedure to do so. Hence, the HIPAA security rule states that there will be national standards to secure any patient information that is electronically stored. All the personal health information that is received or created needs to be maintained in a covered entity. In addition the security rules of HIPAA terms that all the information needs to be safeguarded both ways, technically and physically to ensure confidentiality of the patient data. The security rules also require the health care entities to allocate appropriate administrative resources to ensure that the patient data is not tampered with and maintained well.    

The terms privacy, confidentiality and security may seem extremely intertwined but they all have a very unique role in the health care industry. As a health care professional, one must understand that HIPAA terms not only incorporate but regulate the important concepts of confidentiality, security and privacy! It is also important to note that it is possible to have security without privacy and confidentiality but it is not possible to have this the other way round. In other terms, any health care organization must secure confidential information to maintain privacy of the patient data! 

In order to protect patient information, one must not only be aware of the HIPAA terms but they must also be aware of how confidentiality, privacy and security should be maintained according to HIPAA privacy and security rules so that patient data is not compromised under any circumstances. When it comes to following compliances and protecting the patient’s medical information, it is these three concepts along with the HIPAA terms that form the three stable legs of the health care system!

By: Anna williams Category: blog


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