HIPAA compliance is critical to success in any healthcare field, regardless of the nature of the health condition being treated. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with physical problems or psychiatric medicine; compliance applies to workers in all divisions, whether it be in Cardiology, Neurology, Oncology, Occupational Therapy or Mental Health.
Any time the nature of your job involves working with patients who are receiving professional treatment, you must respect their inherent right to privacy and protection of their personal information that you hold. You have access to knowledge about the person that not everyone generally knows; this gives you power, and power should never be misused.
Compliance means respecting the rules and maintaining the confidentiality of every person whose protected health information (PHI) you have the privilege to know.
- Addresses or other geographical identifiers
- Birthdays and other dates directly related to the client
- Phone and fax numbers
- Social security numbers
- Email addresses
- Prescribed medications
- Types of treatment received
Other identifying information that should be avoided includes account numbers, health plan numbers, certificate or license numbers, license plate numbers, student or employee ID numbers, medical records, videos and photographs.
If it’s something you wouldn’t want others to have access to or know about you, you shouldn’t release it without the permission of others, either. Consent is key. You must never release PHI without getting verbal or written consent from the person the information pertains to (or, in some cases, legally belongs to).
There are some exceptions to the rule. In certain cases, it is okay to break confidentiality and release a person’s protected health information without their consent. However, you must ensure that you are doing it only in these specified circumstances:
- If you suspect child abuse or neglect
- If you suspect the abuse of an at-risk adult or elder
- If you suspect domestic violence
- If a person is at risk or harming themselves or is a danger to themselves or others
- You are being subpoenaed by a court of law
Always make sure that you stay up to date with HIPAA regulations and the ways that you can comply. Making one small mistake could cost your job. It’s never a bad idea to educate yourself and remind yourself of what you need to do to make sure that a costly mistake like that doesn’t happen.