In 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly referred to as HIPAA, detailing new regulations for protecting the confidentiality of patient healthcare information. These regulations affect how Med-X Global conducts its operations, requiring both Med-X Global and our clients to carefully examine how each of us manages healthcare information and patient records. In short, HIPAA requires us to:
- Protect the confidentiality of patient healthcare information. The “protected health information” (PHI) of patients must be identified and remain confidential from the point it is recorded by a client, transferred to Med-X Global for billing purposes, used by Med-X Global to file insurance claims or mail invoices and stored by Med-X Global and/or a client for record keeping purposes.
- Never disclose PHI unless permitted to do so. Med-X Global and our clients can only use PHI and related healthcare information for the purposes of filing insurance claims, mailing invoices and conducting legitimate business operations related to financial transactions, record keeping and the administration of a transportation system. All other uses of PHI must be approved by the patient prior to the release of such information.
- Allow patients to view and amend PHI if requested. Clients must establish a record keeping system that allows patients to view and (in some cases) amend their PHI. Amending the PHI of a patient is permitted under certain circumstances, but can be denied in others. In all cases, the patient has a right to view their PHI along with a record of other parties who had access to such information.
- Report disclosures of PHI, if they occur. Med-X Global and our clients must report inadvertent or purposeful disclosures of PHI to the patient, if they occur. Such disclosures may involve civil or criminal penalties.
- Provide accountability for PHI practices. Both Med-X Global and our clients must provide accountability for business practices, record keeping and information management related to the use or storage of PHI to the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), if requested.
WHAT WE BOTH HAVE TO DO!
To meet these requirements, Med-X Global and our clients must enter into a “Business Associate Agreement” outlining the responsibilities of each organization with respect to HIPAA. This agreement defines the role of each organization:
- Clients retain responsibility for managing patient records. Because clients of Med-X Global are considered “healthcare organizations” they retain responsibility for the management of patient records and the protection of PHI. This includes “notification of privacy practices” (NPP) to patients, obtaining an “acknowledgement of receipt” of NPP signed by patients when practical, maintaining the original patient record in a secure storage facility and meeting the procedural requirements of HIPAA with regard to patient inquiries concerning PHI.
- Med-X Global and our clients share responsibility for secure patient record transfer. Clients provide Med-X Global with copies of patient files in paper or electronic form to be used for billing purposes. Both organizations share responsibility in developing a secure method for transferring such information. Med-X Global shall recommend a HIPAA compliant transfer method for both paper and electronic medical files as part client-billing contract.
- Med-X Global becomes responsible for PHI management related to foreign healthcare services and transportation functions. After receiving medical information, Med-X Global files insurance claims and mails invoices. Our firm assumes responsibility for the management of PHI during billing operations and provides accountability to the client for our business practices. Med-X Global will release PHI only for the purpose of treatment, payment or other circumstances required by HIPAA regulations. PHI is shared only with authorized Med-X Global employees, patient representatives and third party organizations involved in securing payment for client services. Med-X Global does not disclose PHI unless authorized by the patient, the client or directed by legal authority.
Med-X Global has instituted a HIPAA compliancy program for all client-billing operations. This program is described by the Med-X Global HIPAA Compliancy Plan, available at each Med-X Global office. The program is administered by the Med-X Global HIPAA Privacy Officer.