Four Tips for Protecting Your Healthcare

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Think your healthcare information is always confidential? Unfortunately, it ain’t necessarily so.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) introduced some important privacy protections for your personal and healthcare information, which, in HIPAA language, is called Protected Health Information, or PHI.

Among the HIPAA protections is a series of requirements that allow your healthcare providers to share your PHI — without — your authorization. They include all of the following circumstances:

— Uses and disclosures required by law

— Uses and disclosures for public health activities

— Disclosures about victims of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence

— Uses and disclosures for health oversight activities

— Disclosures for law enforcement purposes

— Uses and disclosures for coroners and medical examiners

— Uses and disclosures for cadaveric organ, eye, or tissue donation purposes

— Uses and disclosures for research involving minimal risk

— Uses and disclosures to avert a serious threat to health or safety

— Disclosures for Workers Compensation

Should your healthcare provider disclose your PHI for one of the above reasons, he or she is required to document, or “account” for the disclosure. You have the right to receive that accounting so that you will know to whom, if anyone, your healthcare provider has disclosed your PHI. You can exercise that right any time you want by simply asking your provider for an accounting of the disclosures of your PHI.

However, compliance with disclosure accounting is spotty, at best. Many healthcare staff and providers do not really know or understand how or why they can, or should, disclose your PHI. So, some of them do not account for such disclosures.

You may not necessarily know whether or not your PHI has been disclosed — your authorization is not required for these types of disclosures, and providers’ offices may not be compliant with the disclosure accounting rules.

More important, though, is the fact that once your provider does disclose your PHI, whether they account for the disclosure or not, whoever receives your PHI may or may not be required to comply with the HIPAA privacy rules.

For example, Sue Smith (named changed to protect the individual’s privacy) suffered a death in her family. Because of the circumstances, her family member’s PHI was provided to law enforcement. Fortunately, the healthcare provider followed the HIPAA privacy rules and accounted for the disclosures. But, her family member’s PHI was subsequently released to the press, including Social Security Number, date of birth, and diagnoses.

How the press got the information is a subject for the courts. The point is that the information was not protected once disclosed by the healthcare provider.

Your healthcare information may not be safe once disclosed by your provider, either.

What can you do to help ensure that you and your family’s protected healthcare information really is protected and remains confidential?

First: should you or your family member ever be involved in any circumstance, mentioned above, in which your healthcare provider discloses your PHI, exercise your right for an accounting of the disclosure by your healthcare provider.

Next, if no accounting is provided to you in writing within 30 days, file a complaint with your healthcare provider’s HIPAA Privacy Officer (all healthcare providers are required to have one), and if necessary, file a complaint directly with Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights.

Then, make certain that you follow the chain of custody: who got the information, and what they did with it. Make sure that all of your requests for this information are in writing, and follow-up with phone calls.

Finally, always keep a log of your requests; you may need it.

The HIPAA privacy rules were designed to keep your protected health information confidential while it is in the custody of your healthcare provider. Once it is disclosed to other organizations that are not engaged in healthcare, it is no longer protected by HIPAA. It is up to you to keep track of your PHI, and make sure it is kept as protected and confidential as possible.

Healthcare Resumes

Applying for a job in healthcare is a little different from typical corporate job. One of the reasons for this is that healthcare has its own unique culture and ethos. Therefore, if applying for a position in the industry, you need to take this into account when preparing your resume and cover letter.

Here are some tips for creating a winning resume:

1. Having a good clear Career Objective is particularly important in the healthcare field. You should aim to demonstrate your knowledge of the healthcare industry and that you have a particular career path in mind. You must aim to show that you are qualified for the position that you are seeking – even if you are new to healthcare – for example by pointing to your education and, as applicable, any practical work or previous experience.

2. Certifications and licenses are crucial in the health field. Be sure to list all that you have, including any continuing education courses that you have, and any government regulations which you are compliant with. As far as licenses are concerned you should list any city, state or federal licenses that you have, including their valid dates.

3. Technical skills are also very important in the health field. This of course includes not only things that are directly related to patient care, but also supporting technologies, including computers and software. Don’t be shying about listing all your technical qualifications and skills, including computer skills.

4. You should also mention any training that you have done, or any courses that you have taken. As with technical skills, you need limit it those that are directly related to patient care. For example, if you have done any training in management, ethics, communication, etc., you should list it on your resume.

5. Where possible you should try to quantify your previous experience. For example, you could mention the number of patients or clients that you took care of at previous job, or if you were in a senior position, the number of people in your team, etc.

6. There is a lot of terminology and jargon that is specific to the health care industry. Where necessary you should use the propre medical terms, rather than trying to substitute common phrases which don’t really fit. That said, you don’t want to use jargon excessively or unnecessarily – it is quite likely that your first contact will be a recruiter, who though perhaps broadly familiar with industry terminology, doesn’t have a detailed knowledge of every last medical term.

The Perfect Storm in the Looming Healthcare

Just as our country has endured an unprecedented economic crisis in the past 24 months, the United States will soon be in an unprecedented healthcare HUMAN CAPITAL crisis that will catch many off guard, just as the economic crisis of 2008 did for so many. There are several factors for this with Healthcare reform setting the stage for the “perfect storm” as the first of the “baby boomers” turns 65 in 2011. Just as government run Fannie and Freddie Mac helped fuel the economic crisis of 2008 – the current environment is ripe for a healthcare human capital crisis. It is no question that reform in healthcare is needed. What type of reform is the ultimate question. In their book, Redefining Health Care, the authors point out the following; “Health care is on a collision course with patient needs and economic reality. In today’s dysfunctional health care competition, players strive not to create value for patients but to capture more revenue, shift costs, and restrict services. To reform health care, we must reform the nature of competition itself.”

The Institute of Medicine in their 2008 report Retooling for an Aging America clearly leads the way when it comes to understanding the significant impact of the aging population which has not been seen before in our history. Here are the facts from the IOM report 2008.

1. Between now and 2030 the number of adults aged 65 or over will double. This dramatic shift will place unseen and accelerating demands on the US healthcare system. The sheer number of older patients will overwhelm the number of physicians and other healthcare professionals unless something is done.
2. Beginning in 2011 – the 1st wave of the baby boom generation will begin to turn 65 – the 78 million baby boomers will tip the population scale growing from 12 to 20% by 2030.
3. Older Americans will consume much more healthcare and this is not built into the $900 billion Healthcare reform estimate. The current 12% of older Americans currently accounts for 26% of all physician visits – by growing to 20% – older Americans will account for more than 50% of healthcare utilization just as these reforms start to take affect.

The recommendations laid out by the IOM report are essential in healthcare reform – but have not been addressed in the current healthcare model. Other demographic factors are at play, such as, the aging healthcare workforce. Leaders in healthcare human capital retention understand that we are in the “eye of the storm” with a false sense of security with the impending wave of baby boomers, the backlog of new grads, and the eventual retirement of veteran nurses. This is especially true in the competition for quality licensed healthcare professionals who drive the revenue and deliver the highest quality in patient care. The reality is that the demand for healthcare is going up and the supply of available licensed professionals is going down. This demand cycle will be good for professionals who will see significant growth in salaries and perks, but it will be a challenge for healthcare organizations wanting to attract and retain their people with the aging population and workforce – added with the new demands of Healthcare reform.