What a New Look for HIPAA Means for Physicians

No industry looks the same after more than a quarter century of innovation and breakthroughs. Yet in the medical world, HIPAA, a bill passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996, has remained a key regulatory guideline. With innovations in the healthcare sector occurring at a rapid rate, this bill may finally be getting long overdue tweaks.

For the first time since 2013, several proposals have been made to change the legislation for 2019.

Changes to Look For

Physicians need to be aware of these updates and how they will affect their practices. All offices will be required to implement these three small modifications into their HIPAA processes:

  • Patients are now able to request digital medical records through digital formats. The clinic will have 30 days, whether on paper or digitally, to produce the information.
  • Patients who pay for services personally and in full may require that the clinic not share treatment information with the patient’s health plan.
  • Clinics can provide immunization information to schools if they are required by law to have it and if a parent/guardian gives written permission.

Other changes include a rise in the maximum penalty for non-compliance to a $50,000 limit, an increase in restrictions on receiving patient authorization to use personal information on marketing campaigns, the simplification of patient authorization for health data for research, and the elimination of insurance companies’ use of genetic information for coverage and cost determinations.

When to Expect Change to Come

A somewhat laborious process, changes to HIPAA regulations follow a specific path. First, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seeks feedback on HIPAA regulations to see which areas are problematic or outdated. After careful consideration of the feedback, the HHS submits a notice of proposed rule changes and queries healthcare industry stakeholders for comments on the suggested modifications. Once feedback and comments have been carefully assimilated, a final rule change is established. At that time, a temporary grace period will begin so that practices can prepare for compliance with the new regulations. That said, it is possible that changes made to HIPAA this year will not be implemented until 2020.

What This Means for Physicians

While these new rules have not been formalized as of yet, they will have a noticeable impact on the day-to-day routines of physicians around the country. Most notably, the decreased tolerance of non-compliance from the government will assure that clinics follow procedure. HIPAA has been in place in various forms for 23 years, so clinics should already be comfortable working within the parameters of the bill. Fortunately, the grace period will give practices the necessary time to rework their daily procedures to incorporate imminent regulatory changes and avoid non-compliance.

ChartLogic believes education about the latest industry changes is critical, not only to business success, but to patient-physician relationships. To read more about the impact of new HIPAA rules, click here.

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