By Dava Stewart
The Health Information Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) was signed into law in 1996 — more than a decade ago, so you might wonder why an 18-year-old law is still in the news.
Most of the time, when HIPAA makes headlines, it is accompanied by HITECH and the Final Omnibus Rule. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was passed in 2009 and included the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH), which was designed to promote the adoption (and the ever-present meaningful use) of health information technology. And in January of 2013, the HIPAA Final Omnibus Rule was issued, further strengthening patient privacy and rights.
Many chiropractic practices are still struggling to implement all of the requirements set forth in these laws, and those who have fully implemented all of the necessary changes are often working hard to maintain compliance.
One of the most efficient methods to bring a practice into full compliance is through the use of an electronic health records (EHR) system specifically designed for use in a chiropractic office. Reputable vendors of EHR software work with experts to make sure that their final product makes staying compliant with current regulations as easy as possible.
Many aspects of a patient visit are impacted by HIPAA, from registration to payment. Obviously, patient information must be secure and kept private, and good EHR systems have safeguards in place to help with security.
HIPAA also impacts practitioners’ relationships with vendors and other third parties, such as insurance companies. Code sets, electronic transactions, and the transfer of patients’ records must be addressed.
Many practitioners have found that becoming HIPAA compliant is just the first step, as maintaining compliance over time can be a challenge. Here, periodic compliance audits can be helpful.
Most EHR companies continually upgrade their software to help their customers remain in compliance with the law. However, compliance requires a coordinated effort among practice staff, all vendors associated with practice, billing services, insurance clearinghouses, and any other entities that may come into contact with patient information. Audits can be helpful simply because so many various organizations and people are involved in maintaining compliance.
EHR software is an important tool for practitioners. Patient privacy is important, but DCs are focused on providing effective care. Being able to rely on software that efficiently helps maintain compliance with HIPAA allows for that unwavering focus on patients’ health and well-being.