By: JM Megail Gaumer
HIPAA stands for “Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act”. The law was adopted in 1996 to, among many other complicated provisions, protect patients' personal information (a.k.a. protected health information).
So what is considered “protected health information”? The Privacy Rule protects all "individually identifiable health information" held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associates, in any form or media, whether electronic, paper, or oral. The Privacy Rule calls this information protected health information (PHI).
“Individually identifiable health information” is information, including demographic data, that relates to:
The provision of healthcare to the individual, or
The past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual.
So what does it mean to you? If you are injured and cannot speak for yourself, your family may not be able to obtain information about your condition.
What can you do? It is imperative that you have healthcare directives (a Health Care Power of Attorney or Living Will) that include language specifically permitting your loved ones to require that the hospital release your protected health information to them. This will allow individuals you name to obtain information regarding your care and condition.