HIPAA - Compliance Ideas For All Health Care Providers

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act 1996 (HIPAA)

You may have heard of the acronym by now, H.I.P.A.A. (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) but you don#39;t now what it is or how it impacts the healthcare/dental industry.  We at Allied Systems Products have tried to summarize the meaning and how it relates to your filing and shelving system.

HIPAA in regards of patient files and filing shelving
HIPAA has one primary component to which hospitals, health plans, healthcare "clearinghouses," and healthcare providers must conform with regards to filing folders and shelving: Privacy protection. Healthcare providers are required to take reasonable measures to protect patients’ written, oral, and electronic information.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule provides federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the Privacy Rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes.  

Becoming compliant
The HIPAA regulations states that a healthcare provider must protect their patients information, but doesn't provide a percise solutions. The regulation requires physicians/doctors to look at the ways they use and access data to determine whether that’s reasonable or not. 

Compliance is not optional. Those found in violation of the act will be penalized:

  • Civil penalties range up to $25,000 per violation of each standard.

  • Criminal penalties range up to $250,000 in fines and/or up to 10 years in prison.

To help you begin your HIPAA compliance process, the following are some practical ideas for rethinking how you maintain and use patient information in your office.

Folder Solutions
An important part of HIPAA is the minimum use standard, which mandates that healthcare providers use and disclose patient information in ways that are minimally necessary to accomplish the task.

Certain people need to see certan sections of a persons file.  Therefore, you may want to divide patient files into sections, having an office policy that clearly states who may access each section.

Consider converting to pocket-style folders, where classified information could be stored. General information could be attached to the folder using the built-in fasteners.  One possible solution is the AAK folder 2640 line of folders.  Click here for more information. 

F2640 Filing Folder - Green border with built in pocket

Labeling Solutions
Take a look at the outside of your file folders. Do they process identifiable patient information, such as the patient’s name, address, social security number, birth date, phone number, or specific information about a health condition? If so, you may need to re-label your files. Consider converting to a color-coded system that allows you to file alphabetically or numerically.

Shelving - Locking Cabinet/Shelving Solutions
When possible, files that are not in use should be locked. Locking the room where files are stored is a good start, but remember that cleaning, building, and other staff may enter your office while you are not there. Another option would be to have a locking mechanism on your filing cabinet, where your staff can lock them up at the end of the day or when they are not in use.

Rotating Shelving
Rollok Doors
Retractable Door Shelving
Rollok Door
Retractable Door

You may want to take this opportunity to re-think how you file and purchase new filing cabinets with locks. You may now choose from vertical, lateral, and open-shelf systems. We have a couple of different lines.

If a new filing system is not in the budget and your current cabinets do not have locks, it’s possible that they can be retrofitted with locks. For example, you can purchase a lock accessory for several open filing cabinets and easily install locks/doors for all sorts of models.

The information contained in this article is for general guidance. Such information is provided on a blind-basis, without any knowledge as to your industry, identity, or specific circumstances. The application and impact of relevant laws will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. There may also be delays, omissions, or inaccuracies in information contained in this site. The information on this site is provided with the understanding that Allied Systems Products and its affiliated entities, and various authors and publishers providing such information are not engaged in, and that providing such information does not constitute the rendering of, legal, accounting, tax, career, or other professional advice or services. As such, information on this site should not be relied upon or used as a substitute for direct consultation with professional advisors.  

Source:Active Therapy - http://www.activitytherapy.com/hipaa.htm