The HIPAA Privacy Rule was developed in response to the healthcare sector's growing reliance on information technology to enhance service delivery efficiency. Thus, the intention behind it is to protect data privacy in a complex landscape such as that of healthcare providers in the United States.
Despite being approved in 1996, the significance and impact of the HIPAA Privacy Rule is incredibly relevant in today's climate, ensuring the protection of patients' privacy on a daily basis. At the same time, it represents a legal framework for the work carried out by health professionals, since it does not seek to hinder the flow of health information in order to offer better services. It is also applicable when hiring medical translation services.
What are the HIPAA regulations, what are their requirements and what are their implications for healthcare providers working with translation services? Let us tell you all about it.
HIPAA Privacy Rule: what it is and who does it affect?
The HIPAA Privacy Rule (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) describes the privacy and security requirements and standards that must be applied to health information, including medical records.
As part of the Social Security Act, the HIPAA privacy law was passed in the United States in 1996 and contains five main sections that focus on key issues, such as portability of workers' health insurance or electronic transmission of administrative patient data, among others.
This privacy rule applies to any institution within the U.S. healthcare sector that conducts electronic transactions with personal data, known as "personal health information."
This includes health insurance providers, healthcare providers, and the medical information processing centers, among others. The standard applies, in turn, to a multitude of document types (from diagnoses to prescriptions and medical test results).
The aim is to prevent the use and disclosure of patient information, including personal data such as national identification number, contact information or dates of birth.
Thus, some of the rights protected by this law include the right of all patients to protect their health information, to review and obtain a copy of their medical records, and to request that their medical information be corrected.
The law has generated a series of implications for hospitals and medical professionals. It has had an impact on areas like the storage of medical records, access to records and databases and the way they are shared. In turn, the HIPAA privacy law also has implications when it comes to hiring providers and third parties, as in the case of medical translation, which we will get into below.
Requirements for compliance with the HIPAA privacy law
Creation and monitoring of security and confidentiality protocols regarding protected health information (PHI). The law also defines what is considered as PHI, including names, contact details, important dates (birth, admission, death, etc.), social security numbers, account numbers or biometric identifiers, among others.
Using only the protected health information needed at any given time.
Protected health information may only be disclosed if permitted or required by the same policy or authorized in writing by the patient (or the patient's representative).
Only the data subject (or their representative) and the public department of health and human services may request access to protected health information.
Entities are required to send beneficiaries a notice about their privacy practices.
Citizens have the right to file complaints with the entities or the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
All agencies, companies or entities shall report any case of data privacy breach.
HIPAA data anonymization considerations
The HIPAA Privacy Rule provides for the use of anonymization and de-identification techniques to preserve information privacy. De-identified data is no longer restricted by the rule, as it is no longer considered PHI or protected health information.
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How does HIPAA affect machine translation?
Machine translation companies offering healthcare or medical translation services must comply with the HIPAA privacy law when processing and translating sensitive medical data. The rule also applies to those who provide transcription or interpretation services in the medical sector.
There are some steps that translation companies will need to take with respect to their work in the HIPAA-regulated medical industry:
Professional translators, interpreters or transcribers should have specialized training and certification in compliance with this law.
Administrative, physical and technical protection systems must be implemented to ensure privacy control.
It is advisable for translators and interpreters to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements.
These cases do not apply in the case of using health information that has undergone anonymization or de-identification processes. In such situations, it is deemed that no protected health information is being handled, as there is no means of identifying the patients involved.
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