Introducing Privacy at the Crossroads

Introducing Privacy at the Crossroads

By Robyn Stambaugh, MS, RHIA

COVID-19’s impact on global healthcare systems accentuated the vulnerability of health information and has catalyzed its stakeholders to reconceptualize current information privacy and security models.

The pandemic and the pre-existing (and still evolving) threat of cyberattacks compels a close examination of gaps in federal and state privacy and information security laws, with considerable attention given to the adequacy and efficacy of HIPAA in a modern, digital world.

To gain perspective on what’s needed to contemporize HIPAA, it’s critical to study the laws inspired by it, such as Europe’s powerful General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). States such as California have already stepped in to address the gaps in US privacy laws to better meet consumer demand for transparency, control, and protection of their citizens’ personal information.

The acceleration of information technology and interoperability will continue to be a catalyst for greater access, use, and disclosure of health information. Protecting information each step of the way is vital as we connect patients to care in ways that extend far beyond traditional healthcare boundaries. Health information professionals are the ideal experts for meeting both the challenges and opportunities present in privacy and information security.

I am proud to introduce this special issue of the Journal of AHIMA, which focuses on privacy and information security from myriad perspectives. This curated selection of articles includes:

Additionally, AHIMA’S Public Policy and Government Affairs office has released three policy statements related to privacy and information security, including patient identification and matching; addressing gaps in the protection of health information held by HIPAA non-covered entities; and the need for greater integration of clinical and administrative data.

Finally, AHIMA is also announcing a new webinar series on privacy and information security for introductory learners, beginning on August 19. Presented by Laurie A. Rinehart-Thompson, JD, RHIA, CHP, FAHIMA, professor and director of the health information management and systems program at The Ohio State University, the first episode will cover privacy regulation, particularly HIPAA.

Increased interoperability, portability, and connectivity of health information presents clear opportunities to improve patient care and challenges our ability to safeguard individuals’ privacy and the security of protected health information. In response, AHIMA aims to equip health information professionals with the necessary resources to adapt to new realities, modernize standards and regulations, and empower them to provide evidence-based expertise to professionals in every domain of the healthcare ecosystem.

Our hope is that Privacy at the Crossroads will contribute to a global discussion on the strategies and tactics necessary to safeguard health information.

 

Robyn Stambaugh (Robyn.Stambaugh@ahima.org) is a practice director for professional development and education at AHIMA.

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