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Understanding the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act

By: Susanne S. Warfield
Posted: May 3, 2010, from the May 2010 issue of
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At the same time, the Privacy Rule is balanced so it permits the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes. The Security Rule specifies a series of administrative, physical and technical safeguards for covered entities to use to assure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected health information.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information. It also enforces the HIPAA Security Rule, which sets national standards for the security of protected electronic health information, and the confidentiality provisions of the Patient Safety Rule, which protects identifiable information being used to analyze patient safety events and improve patient safety.

Covered entities

The Privacy and Security Rules apply only to “covered entities.” Individuals, organizations and agencies that meet the definition of a covered entity under HIPAA must comply with the rules’ requirements to protect the privacy and security of patients’ health information, providing individuals with certain rights with respect to their health information. If an entity is not a covered entity, it does not have to comply with the Privacy or the Security Rule.1

Covered entities include health care providers such as physicians, clinics, psychologists, dentists, chiropractors, nursing homes and pharmacies. But this is only if these entities transmit any information in an electronic form in connection with a transaction, for which the Department of Health and Human Services has adopted a standard.1

Covered entities additionally include health plans and can encompass health insurance companies, HMOs, company health plans and government programs that pay for health care, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the military and veterans’ health care programs.1