HIPAA - Health Information Portability and Accounting Act

Chapter 1

Medical coders - indeed, everyone in the healthcare industry - must adhere to the rules of HIPAA, or the Health Information Portability and Accounting Act. HIPAA is a federal act that protects patients' rights and keeps their healthcare records private and secure. It is absolutely critical that you, as a professional in the healthcare industry, have a thorough understanding of HIPAA. Furthermore, if your goal is to start your own medical coding business, you must understand and implement HIPAA in your business.

HIPAA requires:

Providers to allow patients to access their records within 30 days of their request.

- Healthcare providers must provide all patients with a privacy notice, informing them how and when their healthcare information may be used. All patients are required to read and sign this notice.

- Providers are allowed to use and share their patients' information, as long as it is in the course of treating them.

- If a life insurance agent or bank lender, for example, requests medical information on a patient from a healthcare provider, the provider cannot release that information unless the patient has signed an authorization form giving permission to release the data.

- Healthcare providers and professionals are not allowed to use their patients' information for marketing. The only exception is if the patients give their permission.

- Patients have the right to request that all communication with healthcare providers remain confidential. For example, if you're a patient, and your doctor needs to call you with information, you can request that he call you at work, instead of at home.

- Patients who believe their privacy rights have been violated have the right to file an official complaint with the United States Department of Health and Human Services by contacting them online or by calling 1-866-7748.

Regardless of whether you work in a clinic or a physician's office, your employer should provide you with written privacy procedures, detailing what information you'll have access to, how you may use that information and in what instances you can disclose it. Furthermore, healthcare providers are responsible for educating those employees - who have access to or work with patient information - on the rules of HIPAA. It is critical that every employee, who works with patient information, follow the procedures and policies of HIPAA. Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action.

If you are going to work as a medical coder, you must know and understand HIPAA - it's just as important in your career as the codes you use to diagnose services and procedures. Make sure you take it seriously.

You can learn more about HIPAA at the United States Department of Health and Human Services by visiting their website here.

You can find other HIPAA resources at: