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  • Writer's pictureBonnie Blachly

What is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)?

Is your health information protected? Do you have questions about the forms you sign in the doctors office? Learn more about what HIPPA is and how you are protected.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law requiring the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge. The HIPAA Privacy Rule was issued to implement the requirements of HIPAA. The HIPAA Security Rule protects a subset of information covered by the Privacy Rule which is related to electronic health information.

The Privacy Rule contains standards for each person’s right to understand and control how their health information is used. The goal is to insure a person’s health information is protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality care and to protect the health and well-being of the public.

Individuals and organizations (known as “covered entities'') are required to be compliant with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. These include healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and business associates.

There are circumstances when “covered entities” are allowed, but not required to disclose protected health information without a person’s authorization for the following purposes or situations:

  • Disclosure to the person if the information is required for access or accounting of disclosures

  • Treatment, payments or healthcare operations

  • Opportunity to agree or object to the disclosure of personal health information

  • Incident to an otherwise permitted use and disclosure

  • Public interest and benefit activities.

There are 12 national priority purposes where protected health information (PHI) can be disclosed without the person’s authorization or permission. These are:

  1. When required by law

  2. Public health activities

  3. Victims of abuse or neglect or domestic violence

  4. Health oversight activities

  5. Judicial and administrative proceedings

  6. Law enforcement

  7. Functions concerning deceased persons such as identification

  8. Cadaveric organ, eye, or tissue donation

  9. Research, under certain conditions

  10. To prevent or lessen a serious threat to health of safety

  11. Essential government functions

  12. Worker’s compensation

The HIPAA Security Rule protects a subset of information covered by the Privacy Rule which is electronic protected health information. The Security Rule does not apply to PHI transmitted orally or in writing. All “Covered Entities” must do the following to be in compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule”

  • Ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all electronic PHI

  • Detect and safeguard against anticipated threats to the security of the information

  • Protect against anticipated impermissible uses or disclosures

  • Certify compliance by their workforce.

Any complaints about HIPAA should be reported to the HHS Office for Civil Rights.

Gentle Passage Doula Collective can help you better understand HIPPA and help you and your loved ones be prepared for health events. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or to book a meeting with us.

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Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention




The tools, resources and information does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only, not advice or guarantee of outcome. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the Gentle Passage Doula Collective Website, downloaded resources and/or educational material, or misinterpreted the information/context/educational sessions. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911. Gentle Passage Doula Collective and its members are not responsible for errors and omissions in reporting or explanation. No individuals, including those under our active care, should use the information, resources or tools contained within to self-diagnosis or self-treat any health-related condition. Gentle Passage Doula Collective gives no assurance or warranty regarding the accuracy, timeliness or applicability or the content.

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