This week we’re taking a look at the HITECH Act and an overview of what it is and how it relates to HIPAA. 

Formed in 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was introduced as part of an economic stimulus package to promote and expand the awareness and adoption of health information technology.  The focus was specifically to be focused on promoting the use of electronic health records (EHR) within healthcare providers.

 It was also created with a goal of removing loopholes in the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that was created in 1996, and addresses specifically in Subtitle D, the “privacy and security concerns associated with the electronic transmission of health information, in part, through several provisions that strengthen the civil and criminal enforcement of the HIPAA rules.”  This also includes tougher penalties that are to act as extra incentive for businesses to comply with HIPAA.

 Before HITECH

 In 2008, before HITECH was introduced, only 10% of hospitals were using electronic health records.  In order for HIPAA to be effective, and the healthcare industry to be efficient and provide coordinated patient care, this number needed to increase.  The cost to do this was one factor that prevented many healthcare businesses from moving forward, so the HITECH Act provided incentives to do so. The Meaningful Use Program was created as a result of this, and also to provide financial incentives to adopt an EHR system. With a budget in excess of $25 million, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was emphasizing the importance of achieving their goal by recognizing care providers that adopted certified EHRs.   If the measure of adoption is an indication of the HITECH Act’s success, seeing 86% of (or 9 in 10) of office-based physicians using EHRs by 2017 provides proof of the program working effectively. 

 Details of HITECH

 The HITECH Act has four subtitles.  They are as follows:

Subtitle A: Promotion of Health Information Technology

            Part 1: Improving Healthcare Quality, Safety, and Efficiency

            Part 2: Application and Use of Adopted Health Information Technology Standards; Reports

Subtitle B: Testing of Health Information Technology

Subtitle C: Grants and Loans Funding

Subtitle D: Privacy

            Part 1: Improved Privacy and Provisions and Security Provisions

            Part 2: Relationship to Other Laws; Regulatory References; Effective Date; Reports

 HITECH and HIPAA are different but support and reinforce each other in various ways.  Their success is dependent on each other – as is a healthcare business’s success dependent on adhering to their guidelines.  These programs can seem overwhelming and complicated, especially when you are a small business that already has a lot on your plate.  HIPAA Secure Now can help you to understand what you need, when you need it, and how to keep your business safe when it comes to the threat of cybercriminal activity. 

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