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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, also known as HIPAA, is a federal law issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The HIPAA minimum necessary rule entails that all healthcare professionals understand their responsibilities about protecting sensitive patient data. Health care professionals are required to follow many HIPAA Privacy Rule requirements. The rules that are subject to national standards mostly govern how health care professionals and patients can access, use, and distribute protected health information.
What is the Minimum Necessary Rule?
Under the Minimum Necessary Rule, covered entities, including healthcare clearinghouses, healthcare providers, and insurance companies, may only access, transmit, or handle the minimum amount of protected health information necessary for that function. Therefore, sending an entire copy of a patient’s medical record by email for any task which would only be part of the record would violate this policy. The purpose of HIPAA’s minimum necessary rule is to minimize damages that may result from a data breach.
You can prevent data breaches in your organization by maintaining the Minimum Necessary Rule while carrying out your daily operations. Even if a data breach occurs at your practice, the Minimum Necessary Rule is meant to minimize a patient’s privacy damage. As part of the Privacy Rule, access to Protected Health Information (PHI) should be limited on an individual-by-individual basis based on the employee’s role. Therefore, no employee should have access to all PHI within your practice.
Moreover, As EHRs (Electronic Health Records) and EMRs (Electronic Medical Records) become more widespread, patients are able to access more sensitive medical information than ever. This makes the same information more susceptible to malware and ransomware attacks. Keeping your patients’ personal health information secured can help you avoid the mounting penalties resulting from HIPAA violations.
Most uses and disclosures of PHI must comply with HIPAA’s “Minimum Necessary” standard, but there are six exceptions as highlighted below:
- Healthcare providers requesting PHI for treatment purposes
- A patient’s request for a copy of their own medical records
- PHI requests with a valid authorization
- Information that is required for the HIPAA Administrative Simplification Rules
- Under 45 CFR Part 160 Subpart C, the Department of Health and Human Services must obtain PHI disclosures to enforce compliance with HIPAA rules.
- PHI requests that are otherwise required by law
Covered entities must develop policies and procedures to ensure compliance with HIPAA’s minimum necessary rule. This is where robust cloud software applications can be effective for implementing and disseminating policies within the organization.
Key Takeaways About the Minimum Necessary Rule
In simple words, the following are the requirements for all covered entities to comply with the HIPAA Security Rule:
- Ensure all electronic health records are confidential, protected, and accessible
- Secure information against anticipated threats by detecting and preventing them
- Prevent the use or disclosure of information that may be impermissible
- Confirm the compliance of their workforce
The HIPAA act protects the privacy of individuals in terms of their healthcare records. The process can streamline various administrative healthcare functions and improve the efficiency of the healthcare industry as a whole if it is followed diligently.
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