Public health issues can be addressed by relating policies that target the needed change. In general, those are complex and require appropriate planning to ensure that the overall impact on the population is positive. Some regulations, for instance, those relating to information technology are necessary to provide the protection of privacy the need for which becomes evident with the widespread use of electronic health records. This paper aims to analyze the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and present an assessment of its impact on approaches to managing the population’s health.
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Most health-related policies target approaches to managing conditions of individuals, however, in recent years, more attention was dedicated towards information technology use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention argues that population health is primarily affected by the specific policies enacted by the government and its institutions (“Public health policy,” n.d.). One of the essential regulations that change the approach to healthcare in the US was that HIPAA. The primary aim was to set standards for collecting and using information about patients (“The HIPAA privacy rule,” n.d.). Arguably, the policy is crucial in the modern world where innovation transforms approaches to health care service provision. HIPAA helps ensure that personal information and health-related facts are not accessible to all individuals. On December 28, 2000, the final version of HIPAA was introduced to the public (“The HIPAA privacy rule,” n.d.). In the following years, several corrections were made to improve this policy further.
The primary implication of this policy is that no medical professional is allowed to share any information about a specific patient or treatment procedures provided to them. According to the Health Information Privacy’s (HIP) website, the policy “applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically” (“The HIPAA privacy rule”, para. 1). This allows protecting patients while ensuring that they can share sensitive information with their care provider. According to Mello and Cohen (2018), a written authorization is necessary to disclose specific entities. One can argue that limiting access can have a negative impact on public health since researchers and governmental agencies will be unable to use the information for studies and interventions. However, institutional review boards can provide such authorizations and thus minimize the adverse effect of this policy.
One aspect that had a direct impact on public health is the specifics of the information that can be disclosed to third parties. For instance, governmental agencies assess information about diseases, prevalence, and morbidity for their studies, however, under HIPAA, not all data can be provided. This component enables adequate monitoring of disease outbreaks and thus is vital for preventing epidemics or other issues. HIPAA does not forbid access to such data, however, personal information that can help identify a person should be protected (Cohen & Mello, 2018). This can be done if a person authorized sharing these facts or if the instance is outlined by the law and has to be disclosed. In addition, agencies that can receive access to information that is connected to public health have to receive authorization. Cohen and Mello (2018) state that HIPPA and initiatives such as MyHealthEData are crucial for improving the population health of the nation because they allow medical professionals to analyze patterns of diseases. Thus, patient data serves an important purpose of enhancing the approaches to health provision in the US.
Another element of HIPAA that affects public health is the ability to use personal information for better illness management. Cohen and Mello (2018) argue that HIPPA regulates practices of sharing personal information with health applications and other medical resources that improves disease management for individuals. This is especially important with the increased attention towards chronic conditions. It should be noted that significant data breaches are essential aspects of public health concerns because unauthorized access can affect a patient’s mental health negatively. Therefore, one can argue that HIPAA presents a necessary balance between protection and accessibility of health-related information.
In this regard, it is necessary to assess the importance of big data in healthcare and the impact of HIPAA on it. Wang, Kung, and Byrd (2016) argue that modern healthcare organizations are not using big data to its full capacity. Using this technology will allow medical establishments to create patterns of care and make predictions regarding a population’s health. Thus, HIPAA provides a necessary regulation of practices that imply using patient data while allowing using it to develop best practices for improving public health.
Overall, HIPPAA policy was developed and implemented to protect the personal information of patients from being accessed by the public without authorization from an individual. This is especially crucial with the implementation of innovative health record software and information technology improvement. While patients are protected from data breaches and other threats that can reveal their personal information, researchers and institutions can gain access to data for studies, which is crucial in regard to public health.
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Cohen, I., & Mello, M. (2018). HIPAA and protecting health information in the 21st century. JAMA, 320(3), 231. Web.
Public health policy. (n.d.). Web.
The HIPAA privacy rule. (n.d.). Web.
Wang, Y., Kung, L., & Byrd, T. (2018). Big data analytics: Understanding its capabilities and potential benefits for healthcare organizations. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 126, 3-13. Web.