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What Does PHI Stand For?

PHI stands for Protected Health Information. And organizations who deal with patient data should understand why keeping PHI secure is important.
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What Does PHI Stand For?

Allowing more Americans to have health insurance coverage and insurance portability between jobs were the original focuses of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Within the last ten years, it has advanced further, giving patients unrestricted access to their own data. The coordination of the storage and distribution of this information is likewise strictly governed by HIPAA.

The act has evolved as a result of technological developments like the smartphone and the availability of more personal information. The updated HIPAA standards preserve reasonable rules along with PHI security.

In this guide, we’ll break down what PHI stands for, what it means, some examples of PHI, and why PHI compliance is so important.

What Does PHI Stand For?

PHI stands for Protected Health Information. This terminology is often referenced in connection to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA. PHI legislation is similar to that found in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, also known as HITECH. This category of information, sometimes referred to as "HIPAA data," contains any information in a patient's medical file that was generated, utilized, or released in the course of a diagnosis or treatment and that may be used to individually identify the patient. PHI refers to a broad range of identifiers and other pieces of data that are registered during normal medical care and invoicing. PHI collection is an essential part of the healthcare sector and must be handled with the appropriate protections.

Who Must be Compliant with PHI?

Business Associates of HIPAA-covered entities are third-party service providers who have access to Protected Health Information in order to perform a service for or on behalf of the Covered Entity. HIPAA-covered entities are primary healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses. According to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, these organizations are required to put protections in place to prevent the unlawful disclosure, modification, or destruction of protected health information.

What is Considered PHI? (+ Examples)

PHI is any individually identifiable health information that, taken separately or in combination, has the potential to identify a specific person, their past, present, or future medical care, or the payment method, according to the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health & Human Services. PHI does not, however, include health data kept by a covered business while acting as an employer or data included in educational records.

Basically, the Department of Health and Human Services has listed several identifiers for PHI. They consist of the following:

  • Names
  • Home and mailing addresses
  • Birthdays and other dates
  • IP address 
  • Biometric identification methods like voice or fingerprints
  • Social Security numbers, fax, email, phone number, and record numbers for a medical condition
  • Medicare beneficiary information
  • Customer number
  • License or certificate number
  • Serial numbers or license plate numbers for vehicles
  • Serial numbers or device identifiers
  • Web addresses
  • Full-face and full-body images
  • Any additional distinctive distinguishing marks, traits, or codes

Protected health information that is produced, stored, transferred, or received electronically is referred to as ePHI. The methods for evaluating ePHI must follow particular requirements established by the HIPAA Security Rule. Personal computers, internal hard drives, portable hard drives, SD cards, CDs, USB drives, and smartphone devices are among the devices used to store data that are protected by HIPAA. This includes all methods of data transmission across a network, including email and file transfers.

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Why is PHI and HIPAA Compliance Important?

It is crucial that patients have a HIPAA-compliant provider that will adhere to the security measures while handling crucial patient documents. Patients value HIPAA because it provides them with a number of advantages and peace of mind.

The following advantages can be obtained by patients, healthcare institutions, Covered Entities, and Business Associates by being HIPAA-compliant:

  • Improved Privacy - Patients want their information to be stored on a platform with a low likelihood of data breaches. You may lessen the possibility that the medical records of your patients will be compromised by becoming a HIPAA-compliant provider.
  • Improved System and Server Security - It's crucial that your servers and systems be outfitted with the most recent anti-virus and anti-malware software for their security. You will have the most recent versions of the greatest server and system software when you are HIPAA compliant. Your servers and systems will always be secured since you will be knowledgeable about the most recent threat profiles and have the greatest security upgrades.
  • Global Monitoring - There is a very real chance that a breach might happen on your servers and systems any time of day, any day of the week, and any day of the year. The most recent security technologies should be installed in your healthcare facilities so that they may monitor and examine every activity on their devices as it happens.
  • Access to Important Alerts - Finding potential threats and vulnerabilities in your network can take a lot of effort and be quite irritating. If you choose a HIPAA-compliant solution, your servers will be constantly scanned to find any behavior that appears suspect. Before any risks have an effect on patient medical records, security experts will be able to identify them and address them.
  • Better Overall Compliance - Your healthcare facilities won't have to waste important time and resources worrying about safety and security when you employ HIPAA-compliant technologies.

To put it simply, being HIPAA and PHI-compliant isn’t just necessary to avoid potential legal repercussions. It’s also a great way to improve your overall business.

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