Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH)
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What is the HITECH Act?
HITECH stands for the “Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act”. It was passed in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The HITECH Act mostly deals with privacy and security issues in relation to electronic storage of medical records. HITECH overlaps a great deal with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which is a major federal law governing access to private medical records.
In particular, HITECH accomplishes these major changes:
- Strengthens security and privacy measures for health care information
- Improves the effectiveness of various HIPAA rules
- Requires entities covered by HIPAA to report any instances of breaches and unauthorized access to protected health information to the Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS)
How Does the HITECH Act Affect Consumers of Medical Services?
Aside from the changes listed above, HITECH also requires HIPAA-covered entities to notify individuals if they have been affected by a breach of secured medical records.
This means that individual consumers have a right to know when their medical records or history have been accessed without the proper authority. Under some HITECH provisions, it may also be possible for individuals to check who has viewed their electronically stored medical records. This is similar to privacy rights in relation to credit reports.
How Does the HITECH Act Affect Providers of Medical Services?
Providers of medical services who fail to follow HITECH and HIPAA guidelines may become subject to disciplinary action by a federal administrative agency. For example, if the entity fails to report a breach of electronic security, they may face various legal consequences.
Also, the entity may become exposed to a civil lawsuit by individual consumer(s) who may have been affected by the failure to report a breach. The medical organization could be held responsible for reimbursing the individual for losses that the breach of security caused.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues With the HITECH Act?
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act is an important piece of legislation that can affect both consumers and medical care providers in major ways. If you have any issues or a dispute involving the security of electronic medical records, you may wish to consult with an attorney. An experienced lawyer can help interpret the Act’s provisions for you and represent you in court if necessary.
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Last Modified: 12-28-2011 02:33 PM PST
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