Protecting the Privacy of WeBeFit Clients
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
Overview: The first-ever federal privacy standards to protect patients' medical records and other health information provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers took effect on April 14, 2003. Developed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), these new standards provide patients with access to their medical records and more control over how their personal health information is used and disclosed. They represent a uniform, federal floor of privacy protections for consumers across the country. State laws providing additional protections to consumers are not affected by this new rule.
The new privacy regulations ensure a national floor of privacy protections for patients by limiting the ways that health plans, pharmacies, hospitals and other covered entities can use patients' personal medical information. The regulations protect medical records and other individually identifiable health information, whether it is on paper, in computers or communicated orally. Key provisions of these new standards include:
Access To Medical Records. Patients generally should be able to see and obtain copies of their medical records and request corrections if they identify errors and mistakes. Health plans, doctors, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other covered entities generally should provide access these records within 30 days and may charge patients for the cost of copying and sending the records.
WeBeFit provides client access (former and current) to copies of all records and test results performed by WeBeFit. WeBeFit will mail, fax or email the records as requested by the client.
Notice of Privacy Practices. Covered health plans, doctors and other health care providers must provide a notice to their patients how they may use personal medical information and their rights under the new privacy regulation. Doctors, hospitals and other direct-care providers generally will provide the notice on the patient's first visit following the April 14, 2003, compliance date and upon request. Patients generally will be asked to sign, initial or otherwise acknowledge that they received this notice. Health plans generally must mail the notice to their enrollees by April 14 and again if the notice changes significantly. Patients also may ask covered entities to restrict the use or disclosure of their information beyond the practices included in the notice, but the covered entities would not have to agree to the changes.
WeBeFit will use any information provided by clients to customize client workouts and in an aggregate form to develop more effective workouts for all clients.
Limits on Use of Personal Medical Information. The privacy rule sets limits on how health plans and covered providers may use individually identifiable health information. To promote the best quality care for patients, the rule does not restrict the ability of doctors, nurses and other providers to share information needed to treat their patients. In other situations, though, personal health information generally may not be used for purposes not related to health care, and covered entities may use or share only the minimum amount of protected information needed for a particular purpose. In addition, patients would have to sign a specific authorization before a covered entity could release their medical information to a life insurer, a bank, a marketing firm or another outside business for purposes not related to their health care.
WeBeFit will not use any personal information for any purpose other than to promote the best care for clients. WeBeFit will only release the information to third parties if specifically requested by the client or compelled by a court of law.
Prohibition on Marketing. The final privacy rule sets new restrictions and limits on the use of patient information for marketing purposes. Pharmacies, health plans and other covered entities must first obtain an individual's specific authorization before disclosing their patient information for marketing. At the same time, the rule permits doctors and other covered entities to communicate freely with patients about treatment options and other health-related information, including disease-management programs.
WeBeFit will not use client information for marketing purposes unless specific authorization is given by the client.
Stronger State Laws. The new federal privacy standards do not affect state laws that provide additional privacy protections for patients. The confidentiality protections are cumulative; the privacy rule will set a national "floor" of privacy standards that protect all Americans, and any state law providing additional protections would continue to apply. When a state law requires a certain disclosure -- such as reporting an infectious disease outbreak to the public health authorities -- the federal privacy regulations would not preempt the state law.
Confidential communications. Under the privacy rule, patients can request that their doctors, health plans and other covered entities take reasonable steps to ensure that their communications with the patient are confidential. For example, a patient could ask a doctor to call his or her office rather than home, and the doctor's office should comply with that request if it can be reasonably accommodated.
WeBeFit will keep communications regarding client medical information confidential.
Complaints. Consumers may file a formal complaint regarding the privacy practices of a covered health plan or provider. Such complaints can be made directly to the covered provider or health plan or to HHS' Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is charged with investigating complaints and enforcing the privacy regulation. Information about filing complaints should be included in each covered entity's notice of privacy practices. Consumers can find out more information here at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa or by calling (866) 627-7748.