The Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed by the US Congress in 1996. It was originally intended to protect a patient's access to insurance, ensuring that even if someone lost his job, he would be able to get insurance without regard to a pre-existing condition. Later, security policies were added to cover the electronic sharing of medical records. Today HIPAA is comprised of an unwieldy set of policies and laws that are confusing and too easily misunderstood by patients and health professionals alike. In fact, their confusion may get in the way of a patient's best medical care.
Here are some myths about HIPAA and how they affect you, the patient:
Myth #1: HIPAA regulations prevent providers and healthcare facilities from sharing your personal medical information with family members and caregivers.
This is untrue. The HIPAA laws are extensive and confusing. Many doctors are unsure about what they are, and are not, allowed to share with patients and their families. Rather than try to figure the regulations out, some providers simply say no, they won't share your information with a family member or anyone else.
In fact, the laws have been clarified, and translations of the law are available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With specific permissions from you, in writing, records can be shared with anyone you designate.
If your doctor balks at sharing information you think should be fairly shared, consider providing him with these links: