The Relationship between HITECH, HIPAA, and Electronic Medical and Health Records

The HIPPA Act (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) was incorporated and signed into law in 1996. This act was brought up to date by the HIPAA Privacy Rule in 2003 and HIPPA Security Rule in 2005. 

The HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) carries added compliance policies and standards regarding healthcare organizations and is directly linked to HIPAA. 

Together, HITECH and HIPAA outline strict principles for administering the privacy and security of patient information. However, in this guide, we delve deeper into the discussion of how HIPPA, HITECH, and the automated medical and health proceedings are related to each other.

We also shed light on how HITECH has brought about significant changes in HIPAA in all these years.

What is HIPAA and Its Requirements?

HIPAA is widely divided into two titles or categories and presently incorporates the recent final rule. HIPAA Title I is responsible for protecting employees’ health and medical insurance rights who switch or lose their job. Furthermore, it confines the number of limitations that health insurance firms are likely to impose on people with health conditions that already exist. 

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The HIPAA Title II is more significant and influential and contains standards, rules, and guidelines to guard sensitive health and medical information. These rules comprise:

  • The Transaction and Code Set Rule: They secure and streamline transaction processes amongst a wide array of healthcare institutions. 
  • The Unique Identifiers Rule: It suggests all healthcare service providers must have a National Provider ID to file claims. 

Though these 2 rules are incredibly essential, a considerable amount of attention is being paid to the Security and Privacy rules, mainly since data reliability is at risk. Both rules consist of general guidelines and provisions around using, disposing, and protecting delicate health information.

The third and final rule’s emergence has shifted the focus to newer compliance areas and new patient confidentiality requirements. 

What is the HITECH Act?

President Barack Obama’s management brought together the HITECH Act as a fragment of a commercial stimulus package; one of its primary goals was to encourage and support the technology’s acceptance in the medical and healthcare industry. 

Moreover, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department put in their efforts; it was provided a total financial budget of over $25 million to guarantee this project was a success. 

A specific portion of this money was allocated for a particular facet known as the Meaningful Use program. Its utmost objective was to provide incentives to health care providers to move towards using electronic health records (EHRs)

So, the only way for organizations to receive a certain amount of incentives from the Meaningful Use program from the HHS was to display their systems are using EHRs. 

Moreover, they also had to comply with the various aspects of the HIPAA, most notably the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule. This compliance was administered via conducting risk appraisals. While analyzing this, the declining rate revealed an unwavering need for HIPAA rules to be imposed more stringently. 

The Relationship between Electronic Medical and Health Records, HIPAA and HITECH

Title I of HIPAA does not really have anything to do with the HITECH Act. However, there is a significantly strong relationship between HIPAA Title II and HITECH Act. 

HIPAA Title II incorporates a wide array of administrative provisions, security controls for medical and health records and various methods of protected health information (PHI), and patient confidentiality protections. 

One of the HITECH Act’s most important goals was implementing and boosting electronic medical and health records by establishing monetary incentives for transitioning your organizations from paper to computerized records. 

As a result, the HITECH Act is also responsible for enforcing strictness and strengthening the HIPAA Security and Privacy Rules regarding electronic medical and health records.

READ MORE: How does HIPAA protect personal medical ​records?

How HITECH has Strengthened HIPPA

Before HITECH came into practice, several HIPAA-covered bodies and their Business associates fled from the penalties and fines regarding the violation of HIPAA by pleading ignorance as a way of defending themselves from severities of the law. 

Unfortunately, entities that were punished were only exposed to trivial penalties, like paying $100 for every act of violation with the highest aggregate fine amounting to $25,000. With time, the HITECH Act made alterations by assigning more power and authority to the HHS. Moreover, it started enforcing stricter penalties. 

A tiered-penalty system was put into practice, which led to a rise in penalties. Now, the highest fine per act of violation amounts to $1.5 million. 

Due to the possibility of facing more significant prospective penalties, most HIPAA-covered institutional bodies and their business associates starting bringing their best practices into order will all the obligations entailed under HIPAA. 

The Additional Effects of HITECH on HIPAA

The HITECH Act included additional components into HIPAA. The Breach Notification Rule is one such rule that requires HIPAA-covered institutional bodies to inform the HHS and public audience of the unapproved PHI’s disclosures. You must note that the breach notification should be accomplished within a specific period after the breach. 

One of the law’s provisions also requires the business associates to notify the entities regarding any whatsoever violations that might occur on behalf of their actions, which the HIPPA-covered institutions should testify to the HHS. Hence, these institutions are expected to take additional precautions while choosing their business associates. 

The HIPAA Privacy Rule also underwent changes regarding using the PHI, particularly regarding patient consent and marketing activities. These alterations led to the prospects that business associates or covered institutions could face felony charges if the PHI was improperly used or disclosed.