Psychological officers in the health institutions are required by law to get an informed consent from their patients. The informed consent helps to protect and respect the rights of patients on the choice of the therapist who should attend to them and the kind of medication delivered to them. Informed consent touches many areas; the most important among them are privacy and confidentiality of the patient. Therefore, it is important for psychologists to make patients aware of the kind of information that should be disclosed in order to protect their privacy.
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Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA
This is a law that was implemented in 1996 by the federal government aimed at protecting the privacy of patients who receive treatments or other medical services from the health care institutions and providers. In order to effectively accomplish its task, HIPAA is based on three major rules that form its three pillars. These rules include the Privacy Rule, the Transaction Rule and the Security Rule. The Privacy Rule’s compliance date is April 14, 2003 while the Transaction Rule’s compliance date is October 16, 2003. The compliance date for the Security Rule was April 20, 2005.
The increase in technology which in turn facilitated faster and more efficient exchange of information has led to the increased need to protect the patients’ records comprehensively. In addition, the constant movement of employees from job to job was considered a threat to the privacy of the patients in their former health care centers. This, together with the increased technology, encouraged the creation of the HIPAA regulations. Creation of this law was majorly triggered by the recent adoption of computers and electronic components to store information in hospitals and other health care institutions. It is purely based on this criterion that such health care institutions that use computers for storage of the patient’s records and their transmission using the internet are to be governed by this federal law.
The Privacy Rule
According to this rule, patients are made aware of the conditions and times on which their records will be accessed and used. Such conditions and times include providing psychological treatment and services and when carrying out payments and billings. Other situations for accessing the patient’s records by the health care personnel include for purposes of operating health care, need to comply with the law on such cases as child abuse and for meeting business goals of partner agencies. In addition, the records of patients can be accessed for purposes of carrying out clinical researches.
The Transaction Rule
This rule serves to iron out issues to do with the technical aspects that require the standardization of formats in situations where transactions involving heath care are electronically transmitted. This rule, however, is directed only to the psychologists who directly participate in filling and electronically transmitting the protected health information of the patients with regards to the requirements and regulations of HIPAA. The compliance of this federal law is mandatory for all the clinics, hospitals and other large health care institutions.
The Security Rule
This rule requires the players in the health care industry to apply reasonable and up-to-date measures in computer protection security. This might involve limiting access to the computer by the clerks and other non relevant workers, the use of password and information back up prior to the removal of the hardware. Most of the rules in this section are aptly applied more for health care institutions than by the private and individual practitioners. No matter the case, however, the patient’s private information is a key and, therefore, adequate measures must be taken to protect it. Additionally, patients must be informed of this right.
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