What You Should Know About the HITECH Act

HITECH Act

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Understanding the HITECH Act is necessary for anyone interested in Healthcare Information Technology. This act outlines the rules and regulations for using electronic health records and other digital technologies in the healthcare industry. It also provides financial incentives for hospitals and healthcare providers to use such technologies. Additionally, it includes privacy and security measures to protect patient data. All of these aspects are important for the success of healthcare IT.

Incorporating information technology (IT) into healthcare systems has enabled healthcare professionals (HCPs) to offer enhanced, more accessible patient care. It has improved the quality of healthcare delivery, enhanced patient safety, reduced medical mistakes, and reinforced the patient-provider relationship. The technology that has been employed in this context includes:

  • Electronic health records
  • Self-care tools and distant patient supervision
  • Connectivity applications
  • Patient communication systems, like patient gateways
  • Practice control systems

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Given its cost-effectiveness, health IT is a beneficial solution to the healthcare industry’s budgetary issues. Moreover, with its advantages and pertinence to today’s patients, providers are presented with an excellent opportunity to implement a patient-centered care model.

In order to promote the usage of IT in the U.S. healthcare sector and among independent entities and organizations, the federal government passed the HITECH Act, also known as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, in 2009.

The HITECH Act is an essential part of the healthcare industry, as it allows for delivering quality care at a reduced cost. Here is everything you need to know about it.

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What is the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act?

The HITECH Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), was passed into law on February 17, 2009, as an incentive to boost the healthcare sector’s utilization of IT systems. Primarily, the act encourages the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) by offering rewards.

The government enacted the HITECH Act to reduce the financial burden of healthcare by allowing for the electronic sharing of medical data, including protected health information (PHI). The vision of the law is to encourage the exchange of electronically protected health information (ePHI) between healthcare providers (HCPs). As a result, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) needed to strengthen potential legal responsibility and enforce the law more stringently.

The HITECH Act is meant to ensure those covered entities follow HIPAA; they must notify people if their data is compromised. On top of that, it provides stiffer penalties when Privacy and security rules must be followed to ensure that everyone is compliant. Business associates must adhere to HIPAA rules, and the HITECH Act guarantees that.

What is the Significance of the HITECH Act?

In order to progress, the healthcare sector had to conform to the latest technological innovations. HCPs needed an effective system or technology to promote efficiency and patient care coordination, primarily the EHR. The government viewed smooth sharing facilitated by EHRs as fundamental to the healthcare industry’s progress.

The switch from paper records to EHRs was expensive for hospitals, but when the HITECH Act provided incentives, the adoption rate of EHRs jumped from 3.2% in 2008 to 14.2% in 2015. Six years after the HITECH Act, 86% of independent practices adopted EHRs, and 96% of non-federal acute care hospitals implemented certified health IT.

Thanks to the HITECH Act, a great stride has been taken in the healthcare industry. Without the law, it is highly likely that healthcare providers would still be using paper records. Between 2011 and 2015, the incentive system of the law provided a monetary reward to those healthcare providers who showed meaningful use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs).

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What Role Does the HITECH Act Play in Assuring HIPAA Compliance?

The HIPAA law is a federal regulation designed to protect the confidentiality of medical information held by healthcare providers. Its purpose is to maintain patient records’ security and impose sanctions on individuals or entities who violate the law’s stipulations.

The law’s primary objective is to protect personal health information (PHI) from potential threats. Healthcare providers (HCPs) are responsible for ensuring that unapproved third parties do not access confidential patient data. The following data is collected for each patient:

* Contact information, including address, phone number, and email

* Biometric readings

* Results of laboratory tests

* Billing and payment information

* Insurance information

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The HITECH Act supports the HIPAA law to ensure that all relevant organizations follow the Privacy and Security Regulations issued by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These regulations are applied to fulfill the requirements of HIPAA.

When certain organizations, such as healthcare providers, health plans, clearinghouses, or business associates, are disclosing PHI, the HIPAA Privacy Rule is in effect to protect it. If PHI is being transmitted electronically, then there is an additional requirement in the HIPAA Security Rule for those covered entities to set up administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to ensure its safety.

The HITECH Act limits how and when the information can be used and requires the appropriate departments to give patients their medical documents if they ask for them.

The Rule Concerning Notifying of a HIPAA Breach

The HITECH Act facilitated the implementation of HIPAA compliance and the rise of the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule.

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This new regulation requires that all applicable organizations give notice to all individuals affected by a breach of unsecured PHI within 60 days of its discovery. Additionally, the appropriate offices must send notifications to the pertinent patients via first-class mail.

In the letter, the kind of violation should be elucidated, which patient or healthcare data was exposed or in danger, the measures already taken to tackle the breach, and what the individuals concerned should do to minimize any harm.

When a violation of 500 or more records is discovered, the concerned entities have 60 days to submit the report to the HHS. Furthermore, they must also send the same information to a popular media outlet in the same state or jurisdiction as the breach. For cases where the breach is less severe, the organizations should submit the report within 60 days of the end of the year in which the violation happened.

In case of a breach, the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule requires business associates to take action, including informing the provider, reporting the incident to the HHS, and sending out notices. To avoid such an unpleasant situation, HCPs can adopt a software platform that complies with HITECH and HIPAA, thus protecting PHI from security breaches.

Hucu.ai a Platform that Complies with HITECH and HIPAA Regulations Makes Protecting PHI Easier

To ensure your practice meets HITECH and HIPAA guidelines, you should invest in a practice management system. A leading patient-centered communication platform like Hucu.ai safeguards Protected Health Information (PHI) and all medical records. It encrypts all medical data and messages created, transmitted, stored, and obtained between patients, healthcare professionals, and doctors. Hucu.ai provides industry-standard, HIPAA-compliant 2-way texting, automated appointment reminders, and a comprehensive front office management suite to assist in engaging with patients and providing patient-centered care while adhering to compliance.

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