Medical coders understand that protecting patient data is a hugely important part of the job. Not only is it vital that sensitive data is kept safe and secure for the benefit of the patient, but it is also actually a legal requirement. The experts at Utah-based Find-A-Code.com say that HIPAA compliance is something that all medical coders need to adhere to, not only for their own protection but also the protection of their employer. But what does HIPAA compliance actually mean, and why is it so important?

Why Is It So Important to Protect Patient Data?

Besides the fact that complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), is a legal requirement, it is the right thing to do. Patients who entrust their sensitive information to medical professionals as well as those who work in the industry have the right to have their information kept safe and secure. If patients are confident that a medical facility is going to keep their information private, they are more likely to share those crucial details that will allow them to receive the best possible care.

There are other reasons to protect patient data though. The information provided to medical facilities by patients could be easily used for identity fraud were it not kept safe and secure by all those with access to it. Patients need to feel confident that their information cannot be easily accessed by those with no need to use it for the purposes of carrying out their job.

From a personal and professional point of view, protecting patient data is critical. Those who fail to comply with the HIPAA can face harsh penalties, irrespective of whether the violation was accidental or not. If you are working within the medical industry as a caregiver or in an administrative position, you have a legal and moral obligation to protect sensitive patient information at all times.

What is Classed as Sensitive Patient Data?

A patient’s medical record will contain a lot of sensitive information. Details of the patient’s name, date of birth and social security number could easily be used by unscrupulous individuals to carry out identity theft and fraudulent crimes. There may also be information pertaining to the patient’s insurance policy and details of bank accounts used to pay the patient balance for treatments received.

Other information must also be protected, such as the medical history of the patient. Patients have a right for this information to be kept private to protect them against any form of discrimination.

How to Keep Patient Information Secure

Although mentioned frequently within this article, the point is well made – anyone handling patient data has a responsibility to keep it secure. Those running medical facilities must put security measures in place that will encrypt digital information shared by those who use it, especially when it comes to the likes of secure messaging systems. All computers and mobile devices should be protected with strong passwords, which are changed regularly. For hard copies of patient data, training should be provided so that staff always keep it safe and secure. Medical records should never be left unattended and, when not in use, should be locked away securely in filing cabinets.

Conclusion

Sensitive patient information handled by those within the medical industry must be protected for the purposes of both HIPAA compliance and ethical reasons. It is necessary that correct security systems are in place to protect all digital information and that staff are trained to handle hard copies safely and securely. Staying vigilant and implementing suitable procedures and policies will keep patient information safe and protect facilities and employees from the consequences of HIPAA violations.

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