What You Need to Know About HIPAA if You're a Medical Assistant

Medical assistant reviewing HIPAA compliant documents to patient.

 

When you begin your training as a medical assistant, you need to pay really close attention to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA makes sure patients get the insurance coverage they’re entitled to and improves how patient information is handled in the healthcare world. It’s also the law across the whole country. 

Here’s what you need to know about HIPAA if you’re a medical assistant:

What is HIPAA?

There are two main parts you’ll really want to understand and three that relate to the administration, taxes and enforcement issues around HIPAA. Even as a medical assistant student, you should try to understand the importance of Title I and Title II.

  1. Title I

Title I requires group health plans to provide certain types of coverage. It allows employees to have continuous health insurance even if they switch jobs or have a preexisting condition. If you’re a medical assistant doing medical billing & coding, it’s important to know about a patient’s insurance coverage and what you’re required to honor by law.

 

  1. Title II

Title II sets regulations for privacy and security of patients’ healthcare information. As a medical assistant, you cannot share patient information with anyone who is not authorized to have it. When you have discussions with patients that might be overheard, it is important to speak quietly and with respect. Title II also sets up how electronic medical records are handled and what to do in case of a data breach. If there’s a breach of security with a patient’s records, you need to keep the breached records and let the patient know immediately. There are fines and other penalties if rules aren’t followed properly. So if you make a mistake and disregard HIPAA you could get yourself and your healthcare facility in trouble.

Keep Records Secure

Even an accidental breach of HIPAA rules can negatively affect your medical assistant career. Follow the rules closely and make it your mission to protect the privacy and security of your patients. Doctor’s offices, clinics, and other medical providers are under constant pressure to keep their patients’ records secure. This means that employers always look to hire new medical assistants who understand HIPAA regulations and know how to follow the rules. If you take the time to get to know HIPAA, you will have a great foundational base, making you a better medical assistant and a better job candidate.  

A few good rules of thumb on how to adhere to HIPAA rules are:

  1. Do not share patient information unless it is completely necessary, and only with the appropriate personnel. Try to only refer to patients with their first name, and of course don’t talk about them with anyone other than your approved co-workers.
  2. Make sure to carry patient charts and records so that their personal information is concealed. Don’t carry records out of the office unless your supervisor tells you to.
  3. If you aren’t actively working with a patient’s case, don’t look at their records, even if it’s on someone’s device or an area near you.
  4. Make sure to store patient’s charts in their proper folders and drawers. Destroy notes that aren’t necessary. When destroying records, check that you follow HIPAA’s disposal policies.

Have you already learned about HIPAA in your Medical Assistant training? Or are you just starting out? If you keep these tips in the back of your mind, along with some of your own common sense rules, you will probably avoid HIPAA related issues. When in doubt, think about how you would want your records to be treated if you were a patient. If you are interested in learning more about training as a medical assistant, please contact us at Career Quest Learning Centers, today!

 

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