As a caregiver, you’ve likely heard of HIPAA. This acronym stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This piece of legislature has been updated several times since its creation in 1996, and the most recent round affected senior living communities. As a part of Patient Safety Awareness Week, we would like to share some important information on how HIPAA protects your senior loved ones:

Healthcare information technology is changing

In the past, patient healthcare records were kept across a series of paper charts noting information like a person’s vitals, allergies and reason for being admitted to the hospital. Now, as health care moves into the digital age, security is much more complex than simply keeping paper documents in a locked file drawer. HIPAA addresses this new online landscape through monitoring the way healthcare information is stored and shared. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services noted that health plans, most healthcare providers and healthcare clearinghouses all must follow HIPAA laws.

Protecting information

Fraud and identity theft are major issues among the older population. The information that is provided to healthcare providers is perfect for a criminal to use in less-than-wholesome ways. That is why HIPAA was created – to make sure any personal information is protected. The HHS shared that the policy protects the following information:

Medical files

HIPAA protects seniors by securing healthcare information.

  • Anything related to billing, such as credit card numbers and checks
  • Any information that your health insurer has in its computer system
  • Your medical records
  • Anything you talk about with your healthcare team in regards to care or treatment
  • Just about any health information that people or companies who are required to follow HIPAA have access to

These rules also make it easier to claim health care info. For example, if the senior you care for needs to move from one hospital to another for a procedure or an appointment, he or she has the right to take any medical records and bring them along. This can cut down on waiting time, reduce unnecessary testing and also greatly lower the expenses to the patient and the provider.

HIPAA and senior living communities

Senior living communities must be HIPAA compliant. Information such as what medications your senior loved one is prescribed or how they pay for their residence cannot be shared with anyone outside of the community. HIPAA also requires many healthcare companies to upgrade their information sharing and storing software to comply with the policy. The care community your older loved one resides in will likely have updated technology or be in the process of upgrading to ensure they are using programs and software that are on-par with HIPAA regulations. This improved tech may help advance the care the nurses and other staff provide to senior residents. These professionals have faster access to medical records and can share information between locales if necessary, which leads to overall better patient care. Newer technology has security in mind to protect senior resident information and reduce the chances of identity theft and other fraud.