Eastside Eye Consultants
Notice of Privacy Practices
THIS NOTICE DESCRIBES HOW MEDICAL INFORMATION ABOUT YOU MAY BE USED AND DISCLOSED AND HOW YOU CAN GET ACCESS TO THIS INFORMATION. PLEASE REVIEW IT CAREFULLY.
The Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA") is a federal program that requires that all medical records and other individually identifiable health information used or disclosed by us in any form, whether
electronically, on paper, or orally, are kept properly confidential. This Act gives you, the patient, significant new rights to understand and control how your health information is used. "HIPAA" provides panalties for covered entities that misuse personal health information.
As required by "HIPAA", we have prepared this explanation of how we are required to maintain the privacy of your health information and how we may use and disclose your health information.
We may use and disclose your medical records only for each of the following purpose: treatment, payment and health care operations.
Treatment means providing, coordinating, or managing eye care and related service by one or more health care provider.
Payment means such activities as obtaining reimbursement for services, confirming coverage, filling or collection activities, and utilization review. An example of this would be sending a bill for your visit to your insurance company for payment.
Health care operations include the business aspects of running our practice, such as conducting quality assessment and improvement activities, auditing functions, cost-management analysis, and customer services. An example would be an internal quality assessment review.
We may also create and distribute de-identified health information by removing all references to individually identifiable information.
We may contact you to provide appointment reminders or information about treatment alternatives or other health-related benefits and services that may be of interest to you.
Any other uses and disclosures will be made only with your written authorization. You may revoke such authorization in writing and we are required to honor and abide by that written request, except to the extent that we have already taken actions relying on your authorization.
You have the following rights with respect to your protected health information, which you can exercise by presenting a written request to our office:
The right to request restriction on certain uses and disclosures of protected health information,including those related to disclosures to family members, other relatives, close personal friends, or any other person identified by you. We are, however, not required to agree to a requested restriction. If we do agree to a restriction, we must abide by it unless you agree in writing to remove it.
The right to reasonable request to receive confidential communications of protected health information from us by alternative means or at alternative locations.
The right to inspect and copy your protected health information.
The right to amend your protected health information.
The right to receive an accounting of disclosures of protected health information.
The right to obtain a paper copy of this notice from us upon request.
We are required by law to maintain the privacy of your protected health information and to provide you with notice of our legal duties and privacy practices with respect to protected health information.
This notice is effective as of April 14, 2003 and we are required to abide by the terms of the Notice of Privacy Practices currently in effect. We reserve the right to change the terms of our Notice of Privacy Practices and to make the new notice provisions effective for all protected health information that we maintain. We will post and you may request a written copy of a revised Notice of Privacy Practices from this office.
You have recourse if you feel that your privacy protections have been violated. You have the right to file written complaint with our office, or with the Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Civil Rights, about violations of the provisions of this notice or policies and procedures of our office. We will not retaliate against you for filing a complaint.
For more information about HIPAA or to file a complaint:
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Office of Civil Rights
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Toll Free: 1-877-696-6775
Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, from HHS.gov
The Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information (“Privacy Rule”) establishes, for the first time, a set of national standards for the protection of certain health information. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued the Privacy Rule to implement the requirement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”).1 The Privacy Rule standards address the use and disclosure of individuals’ health information—called “protected health information” by organizations subject to the Privacy Rule — called “covered entities,” as well as standards for individuals' privacy rights to understand and control how their health information is used. Within HHS, the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) has responsibility for implementing and enforcing the Privacy Rule with respect to voluntary compliance activities and civil money penalties.
A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public's health and well being. The Rule strikes a balance that permits important uses of information, while protecting the privacy of people who seek care and healing. Given that the health care marketplace is diverse, the Rule is designed to be flexible and comprehensive to cover the variety of uses and disclosures that need to be addressed.
This is a summary of key elements of the Privacy Rule and not a complete or comprehensive guide to compliance. Entities regulated by the Rule are obligated to comply with all of its applicable requirements and should not rely on this summary as a source of legal information or advice. To make it easier for entities to review the complete requirements of the Rule, provisions of the Rule referenced in this summary are cited in the end notes. Visit our Privacy Rule section to view the entire Rule, and for other additional helpful information about how the Rule applies. In the event of a conflict between this summary and the Rule, the Rule governs.
Statutory and Regulatory Background
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191, was enacted on August 21, 1996. Sections 261 through 264 of HIPAA require the Secretary of HHS to publicize standards for the electronic exchange, privacy and security of health information. Collectively these are known as the Administrative Simplification provisions.
HIPAA required the Secretary to issue privacy regulations governing individually identifiable health information, if Congress did not enact privacy legislation within three years of the passage of HIPAA. Because Congress did not enact privacy legislation, HHS developed a proposed rule and released it for public comment on November 3, 1999. The Department received over 52,000 public comments. The final regulation, the Privacy Rule, was published December 28, 2000.2
In March 2002, the Department proposed and released for public comment modifications to the Privacy Rule. The Department received over 11,000 comments.The final modifications were published in final form on August 14, 2002.3 A text combining the final regulation and the modifications can be found at 45 CFR Part 160 and Part 164, Subparts A and E.
Who is Covered by the Privacy Rule
The Privacy Rule, as well as all the Administrative Simplification rules, apply to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and to any health care provider who transmits health information in electronic form in connection with transactions for which the Secretary of HHS has adopted standards under HIPAA (the “covered entities”).
Health Plans. Individual and group plans that provide or pay the cost of medical care are covered entities.4 Health plans include health, dental, vision, and prescription drug insurers, health maintenance organizations (“HMOs”), Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare+Choice and Medicare supplement insurers, and long-term care insurers (excluding nursing home fixed-indemnity policies). Health plans also include employer-sponsored group health plans, government and church-sponsored health plans, and multi-employer health plans. There are exceptions—a group health plan with less than 50 participants that is administered solely by the employer that established and maintains the plan is not a covered entity. Two types of government-funded programs are not health plans: (1) those whose principal purpose is not providing or paying the cost of health care, such as the food stamps program; and (2) those programs whose principal activity is directly providing health care, such as a community health center,5 or the making of grants to fund the direct provision of health care. Certain types of insurance entities are also not health plans, including entities providing only workers’ compensation, automobile insurance, and property and casualty insurance. If an insurance entity has separable lines of business, one of which is a health plan, the HIPAA regulations apply to the entity with respect to the health plan line of business.
Health Care Providers. Every health care provider, regardless of size, who electronically transmits health information in connection with certain transactions, is a covered entity. These transactions include claims, benefit eligibility inquiries, referral authorization requests, or other transactions for which HHS has established standards under the HIPAA Transactions Rule.6 Using electronic technology, such as email, does not mean a health care provider is a covered entity; the transmission must be in connection with a standard transaction. The Privacy Rule covers a health care provider whether it electronically transmits these transactions directly or uses a billing service or other third party to do so on its behalf. Health care providers include all “providers of services” (e.g., institutional providers such as hospitals) and “providers of medical or health services” (e.g., non-institutional providers such as physicians, dentists and other practitioners) as defined by Medicare, and any other person or organization that furnishes, bills, or is paid for health care.
Health Care Clearinghouses.Health care clearinghouses are entities that process nonstandard information they receive from another entity into a standard (i.e., standard format or data content), or vice versa.7 In most instances, health care clearinghouses will receive individually identifiable health information only when they are providing these processing services to a health plan or health care provider as a business associate. In such instances, only certain provisions of the Privacy Rule are applicable to the health care clearinghouse’s uses and disclosures of protected health information.8 Health care clearinghouses include billing services, repricing companies, community health management information systems, and value-added networks and switches if these entities perform clearinghouse functions.
Business Associate Defined. In general, a business associate is a person or organization, other than a member of a covered entity's workforce, that performs certain functions or activities on behalf of, or provides certain services to, a covered entity that involve the use or disclosure of individually identifiable health information. Business associate functions or activities on behalf of a covered entity include claims processing, data analysis, utilization review, and billing.9 Business associate services to a covered entity are limited to legal, actuarial, accounting, consulting, data aggregation, management, administrative, accreditation, or financial services. However, persons or organizations are not considered business associates if their functions or services do not involve the use or disclosure of protected health information, and where any access to protected health information by such persons would be incidental, if at all. A covered entity can be the business associate of another covered entity.
Business Associate Contract. When a covered entity uses a contractor or other non-workforce member to perform "business associate" services or activities, the Rule requires that the covered entity include certain protections for the information in a business associate agreement (in certain circumstances governmental entities may use alternative means to achieve the same protections). In the business associate contract, a covered entity must impose specified written safeguards on the individually identifiable health information used or disclosed by its business
associates. 10 Moreover, a covered entity may not contractually authorize its
business associate to make any use or disclosure of protected health information that would violate the Rule. Covered entities that had an existing written contract or agreement with business associates prior to October 15, 2002, which was not renewed or modified prior to April 14, 2003, were permitted to continue to operate under that contract until they renewed the contract or April 14, 2004, whichever was first. 11 See additional guidance on Business Associates and sample business associate contract language.
Notice and Other Individual Rights
Privacy Practices Notice. Each covered entity, with certain exceptions, must provide a notice of its privacy practices.51 The Privacy Rule requires that the notice contain certain elements. The notice must describe the ways in which the covered entity may use and disclose protected health information. The notice must state the covered entity’s duties to protect privacy, provide a notice of privacy practices, and abide by the terms of the current notice. The notice must describe individuals’ rights, including the right to complain to HHS and to the covered entity if they believe their privacy rights have been violated. The notice must include a point of contact for further information and for making complaints to the covered entity. Covered entities must act in accordance with their notices. The Rule also contains specific distribution requirements for direct treatment providers, all other health care providers, and health plans. See additional guidance on Notice.
Notice Distribution. A covered health care provider with a direct treatment relationship with individuals must have delivered a privacy practices notice to patients starting April 14, 2003 as follows:
Not later than the first service encounter by personal delivery (for patient visits), by automatic and contemporaneous electronic response (for electronic service delivery), and by prompt mailing (for
telephonic service delivery);
By posting the notice at each service delivery site in a clear and prominent place where people seeking service may reasonably be expected to be able to read the notice; and
In emergency treatment situations, the provider must furnish its notice as soon as practicable after the emergency abates.
Covered entities, whether direct treatment providers or indirect treatment providers (such as laboratories) or health plans must supply notice to anyone on request.52 A covered entity must also make its notice electronically available on any web site it maintains for customer service or benefits information.
The covered entities in an organized health care arrangement may use a joint privacy practices notice, as long as each agrees to abide by the notice content with respect to the protected health information created or received in connection with participation in the arrangement.53 Distribution of a joint notice by any covered entity participating in the organized health care arrangement at the first point that an OHCA member has an obligation to provide notice satisfies the distribution obligation of the other participants in the organized health care arrangement.
A health plan must distribute its privacy practices notice to each of its enrollees by its Privacy Rule compliance date. Thereafter, the health plan must give its notice to each new enrollee at enrollment, and send a reminder to every enrollee at least once every three years that the notice is available upon request. A health plan satisfies its distribution obligation by furnishing the notice to the “named insured,” that is, the subscriber for coverage that also applies to spouses and dependents.
Acknowledgement of Notice Receipt. A covered health care provider with a direct treatment relationship with individuals must make a good faith effort to obtain written acknowledgement from patients of receipt of the privacy practices notice.54 The Privacy Rule does not prescribe any particular content for the acknowledgement. The provider must document the reason for any failure to obtain the patient’s written acknowledgement. The provider is relieved of the need to request acknowledgement in an emergency treatment situation.
Access. Except in certain circumstances, individuals have the right to review and obtain a copy of their protected health information in a covered entity’s designated record set.55 The “designated record set” is that group of records maintained by or for a covered entity that is used, in whole or part, to make decisions about individuals, or that is a provider’s medical and billing records about individuals or a health plan’s enrollment, payment, claims adjudication, and case or medical management record systems.56 The Rule excepts from the right of access the following protected health information: psychotherapy notes, information compiled for legal proceedings, laboratory results to which the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA) prohibits access, or information held by certain research laboratories. For information included within the right of access, covered entities may deny an individual access in certain specified situations, such as when a health care professional believes access could cause harm to the individual or another. In such situations, the individual must be given the right to have such denials reviewed by a licensed health care professional for a second opinion.57 Covered entities may impose reasonable, cost-based fees for the cost of copying and postage.
Amendment. The Rule gives individuals the right to have covered entities amend their protected health information in a designated record set when that information is inaccurate or incomplete. 58 If a covered entity accepts an amendment request, it must make reasonable efforts to provide the amendment to persons that the individual has identified as needing it, and to persons that the covered entity knows might rely on the information to the individual’s detriment.59 If the request is denied, covered entities must provide the individual with a written denial and allow the individual to submit a statement of disagreement for inclusion in the record. The Rule specifies processes for requesting and responding to a request for amendment. A covered entity must amend protected health information in its designated record set upon receipt of notice to amend from another covered entity.
Disclosure Accounting. Individuals have a right to an accounting of the disclosures of their protected health information by a covered entity or the covered entity’s business associates.60 The maximum disclosure accounting period is the six years immediately preceding the accounting request, except a covered entity is not obligated to account for any disclosure made before its Privacy Rule compliance date.
The Privacy Rule does not require accounting for disclosures: (a) for treatment, payment, or health care operations; (b) to the individual or the individual’s personal representative; (c) for notification of or to persons involved in an individual’s health care or payment for health care, for disaster relief, or for facility directories; (d) pursuant to an authorization; (e) of a limited data set; (f) for national security or intelligence purposes; (g) to correctional institutions or law enforcement officials for certain purposes regarding inmates or individuals in lawful custody; or (h) incident to otherwise permitted or required uses or disclosures. Accounting for disclosures to health oversight agencies and law enforcement officials must be temporarily suspended on their written representation that an accounting would likely impede their activities.
Restriction Request. Individuals have the right to request that a covered entity restrict use or disclosure of protected health information for treatment, payment or health care operations, disclosure to persons involved in the individual’s health care or payment for health care, or disclosure to notify family members or others about the individual’s general condition, location, or death.61 A covered entity is under no obligation to agree to requests for restrictions. A covered entity that does agree must comply with the agreed restrictions, except for purposes of treating the individual in a medical emergency.62
For more information, visit http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/summary/