Health care providers and business associates of health care providers must handle large amounts of patient medical information in a way that does not violate HIPAA or any state privacy regulations. HIPAA is a complex regulatory framework with several rules that must be followed. A HIPAA lawyer may be able to assist you in deciphering these complex requirements and developing policies and processes to help your company become compliant. Many HIPAA lawyer clients utilize their HIPAA legal team as a resource for dealing with tricky HIPAA compliance scenarios that arise from time to time once the original rules are in place. Physician practices, university medical centers, health plans, and other health care companies are the most typical clients of HIPAA lawyers.
But is a HIPAA lawyer really necessary? Are there any alternatives to hiring a costly legal team to protect your healthcare organization? Let’s break down what a HIPAA lawyer is, how they work, and if you actually need one.
Basically, the HIPAA Privacy Rule is the regulation that a HIPAA lawyer would monitor and offer counsel on for the purpose of ensuring compliance.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule places limits on how protected health information (PHI) is used and disclosed. For HIPAA purposes, almost all of the information kept or produced by a health care provider or supplier will be deemed protected health information. The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes the circumstances under which protected patient information can be utilized securely inside a provider's practice or released to other parties. PHI, in general, can only be used for treatment, payment, and health-care activities, all of which have precise definitions under the legislation. Health care providers must have the patient sign a permission that conforms with all of the HIPAA Privacy Regulations for purposes other than treatment, payment, and operations.
PHI can be shared without a patient's permission under specific exceptions to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, even if the disclosure is not for treatment, payment, or operations. Protected health information, for example, may be revealed in instances where it is required by law. Individual patients also have certain rights under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including the right to inspect and copy their records, the right to request that the information be amended, the right to request certain restrictions on the use and disclosure of their protected health information, the right to file written complaints with the entity and the government, and the right to receive notice of a covered entity's privacy policies.
All of these aspects of the Privacy Rule have specific, and often technical, expectations from all organizations that are compliant with HIPAA. This is where the challenge comes for many organizations as they seek to meet the requirements that the law sets out for them, but existing employees don’t always have the legal background or extensive HIPAA knowledge that is truly needed in some instances. That is where HIPAA lawyers come in.
There are truly two types of lawyers and legal services that could be considered “HIPAA Lawyers.” The first is a HIPAA violation lawyers which is an attorney who is knowledgeable about the many parts of HIPAA legislation and who may assist someone who claims to have been harmed by a HIPAA breach. A HIPAA violation lawyer can aid with this by assisting someone in filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (OCR). These lawyers work to assist victims of breaches or other potential violations of HIPAA that have caused harm or inconvenience to a patient.
The second type of “HIPAA Lawyer” which is more the focus of this article, is a lawyer that has extensive background and knowledge of HIPAA and HIPAA compliance. These lawyers or law firms are typically well versed in advising clients on their compliance and typically drafting the policies and procedures that are necessary for compliance but are also more legal in nature than most non-lawyers could create. These lawyers are valuable due to their deep knowledge of the law and can be very useful to go to for certain complex issues that could pop up from time to time.
A HIPAA lawyer’s depth of knowledge certainly comes at a value and a use-case for certain organizations and certain scenarios. However, is it ever truly necessary? Let’s find out below.
Not at all. In fact, you can use Accountable HQ for much of what a HIPAA lawyer could offer. The Accountable HQ platform is designed to help companies understand the HIPAA compliance process as quickly and simply as possible. Our team has consulted with many organizational leaders and found that it is a common misconception that those who deal with medical data absolutely have to work with a HIPAA lawyer. Luckily, that is not true.
HIPAA lawyers can indeed be quite knowledgeable resources. However, their hourly fees make them a heavy investment that might not be worth the cost in the long run. Accountable HQ is comparably less expensive.
Using a HIPAA lawyer has a number of advantages. Essentially, a HIPAA violation lawyer's principal role is to explain to a client if the facts provided by the client amount to a HIPAA breach. The HIPAA violation lawyer must be able to spot possible concerns in order to provide an explanation. For example, a patient may learn that her medical records have been shared with another doctor at a different hospital for treatment purposes. The patient can then consult with a HIPAA breach attorney to determine whether the sharing is legal.
The privacy and security of a patient's health information are critical for all licensed healthcare practitioners. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, as well as other privacy and security rules, a HIPAA lawyer can advise clients on potential data breaches.
They may also help you create and implement a data breach response plan, which includes notifying federal, state, and local government authorities, responding to official agency investigations and putting up a strategy if your practice has broken the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule. Healthcare compliance consulting attorneys can assist you to build up policies for breach prevention in your healthcare business, and HIPAA lawyers can help you comprehend HIPAA violation reporting and HIPAA privacy issues.