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Medical Billing-HIPAA Compliance

HIPAA compliance requires special focus and effort as failure to comply carries significant risk of damage and penalties. A practice with multiple separate systems for patient scheduling, electronic medical records, and billing, requires multiple separate HIPAA management efforts. This article presents an integrated approach to HIPAA compliance and outlines key HIPAA terminology, principles, and requirements to help the practice owner to ensure HIPAA compliance by medical billing service and software vendors.

The last decade of the previous century witnessed accelerating proliferation of digital technology in health care, which, along with reduced costs and greater service quality, introduced new and greater risks for accidental disclosure of personal health information.

The Health insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in 1996 by Congress to establish national standards for privacy and security of personal health data. The Privacy Rule, written by the US Department of Health and Human Services took effect on April 14, 2003.

Failure to comply with HIPAA risks accreditation and reputation damage, lawsuits by federal government, financial penalties, ranging from $100 to $250,000, and imprisonment, ranging from one year to ten years.

Protected Health Information (PHI)

The key term of HIPAA is Protected Health Information (PHI), which includes anything that can be used to identify an individual and any information shared with other health care providers or clearinghouses in any media (digital, verbal, recorded voice, faxed, printed, or written). Information that can be used to identify an individual includes:

1. Name
2. Dates (except year)
3. Zip code of more than 3 digits, telephone and fax numbers, email
4. Social security numbers
5. Medical record numbers
6. Health plan numbers
7. License numbers
8. Photographs