New Patient Rules




New Patient Rules
By: Wendy Ray

New medical privacy rules are being considered in some circles as the biggest thing to hit health care since Medicare.

With the President's signature, sweeping privacy rules took effect Monday across the health industry.
So what does this mean for you and me? The new patient privacy rules are just that, rules to keep your medical information private. It's the first of three phases to keep patient information private. Hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies across the country, and here in the Heartland now have to adjust to the new rules.
Diane Gammon, director of information services at Saint Francis Medical Center, says, "It basically means you should feel more secure about health information." A lot of steps have been taken to make sure you feel this way. It's part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. The "U Can't Say This" sticker on Gammon's shirt sets the tone for the new rules. "If a conversation is overheard by a particular patient by another person, that could be a violation," she says.
And that's just one part of it. Patients will notice a difference as soon as they are admitted into the hospital. "Basically each patient gets a privacy statement outlining rights, and how information is going to be handled," Gammon says. Patients aren't the only ones affected, so are family members who call in, wanting to know how they're doing. "If you call and you give a specific name, we can acknowledge they're in the hospital and give a general condition," she says. And that's the only information you'll get, unless the patient says it's okay to give out more.

The new rules have been in the making for years and were created, as part of a larger effort to allow for electronic exchange of patient information. Privacy rules were put into place first, because of concerns all the information stored in computers, could land in the wrong hands.