If you’ve recently been involved with a loved one’s health care, you’re all too familiar with HIPAA privacy guidelines. Although HIPAA legal restrictions are intended to protect a patient’s personal information and confidentiality, they can also be very confusing for informal caregivers trying to assist them. Since more and more families are now choosing home care to help aging-in-place loved ones remain independent, it’s essential to understand how HIPPA impacts professional caregivers and those they serve.
What Is HIPAA?
Back in 1996, the U.S. Congress, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS), enacted a federal law to protect the privacy of an individual’s medical information. Known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the rule states that health providers, insurers, and other professional entities who handle personal health information must take increased measures to keep that information secure and confidential.
Under the HIPAA rule, a medical entity may not use nor disclose protected health information except as the privacy rule specifies or as the individual (or their legal representative) authorizes it in writing. In layman’s terms, HIPAA established a patient’s rights over their own health information and set limits on who can receive or view that information.
Patient information protected under HIPAA includes:
- Medical billing information
- All personal information contained within their medical record
- Electronic medical records
- All conversations and treatment notes that a patient’s doctor shares with care team members
How HIPAA Affects Family Caregivers
The HIPAA privacy rule restricts a family member’s access to a loved one’s medical information unless that family member has been named as a personal representative with a valid healthcare power of attorney (POA).
By signing a HIPAA authorization form, a senior can legally grant their family members access to important information about their care. In most instances, an informal caregiver with full knowledge of their loved one’s comprehensive care and treatment history can best ensure quality care decisions in the future.
Informal caregivers should be granted access to a loved one’s health records for these reasons:
- The ability to communicate directly with their loved one’s doctors to coordinate care and treatment between medical entities
- The ability to discuss and pay medical bills on their loved one’s behalf
Does HIPAA Apply to Home-Based Caregivers?
As was pointed out earlier, the HIPAA privacy rule applies to any entity that handles a patient’s personal health information – including home health care and home care providers. A loved one may sometimes need to receive both home health care and home care to ensure all their treatment and care needs are met.
As their designated personal representative, protecting your loved one’s health information while working with home care providers is essential under HIPAA. Your provider is also responsible for supporting those they serve by ensuring that their staff is aware of the rules and rights surrounding the disclosure of personal information.
How HIPAA Promotes a Higher Standard of Care
Open, honest communication is essential in any caregiving relationship – including those that occur in home-based care settings. When working with a reputable home care provider, collaborative decision-making is the key to helping your loved one enjoy a higher quality of life as needs change. Contrary to what you might think, HIPAA regulations are intended to promote caregiver and family interactions rather than discourage them.
Serving as your loved one’s representative under the HIPAA law will allow you to closely monitor changes to their health status and coordinate caregiving efforts. If you have questions about your family’s rights and responsibilities, someone from the home care agency can answer them for you.
In the end, HIPAA requirements are intended to facilitate a smoother transition for families that choose home care for their aging loved ones.
Your Trusted Home Care Partner in Elkhart, IN
Finding your aging loved ones a reputable home care provider isn’t always easy. Senior1Care is your trusted partner in providing quality, compassionate home care services to seniors living in Elkhart, Dunlap, Jamestown, and Goshen, IN. Our experienced caregivers are trained to deliver professional, reliable care in the same respectful and friendly manner that they would treat their own family members.
At Senior1Care, we understand that having a caregiver in your loved one’s home is a decision that requires trust. Our goal is to build relationships with clients by listening to their needs and providing the highest level of quality care possible. We are committed to helping your loved ones maintain their well-being, independence, and comfort. To learn more about our flexible caregiving options or schedule a FREE assessment for a senior in the greater Elkhart, IN, area, visit us by clicking here now.