4 Points on Balancing HIPAA Privacy Rules With Requirements of Research

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and its Privacy Rules have laid a considerable amount of stress for protecting the personal information of an individual. Over the years it has made its guidelines more stringent and also prescribed civil as well as criminal penalties on the covered entities that violate its rules. But even HIPAA cannot take a one-sided view when it comes to the field of research which may be in conflict with several of the privacy provisions but is still required for many constructive purposes.The following points look at research from different perspectives with seemingly opposing provisions of HIPAA Privacy Rules.1. Importance of Research: Carrying on research on a continual basis is vital in any field but more so in healthcare because it involves precious human lives. While the need for having strict laws to protect sensitive data cannot be compromised the fact remains that research is just as important. It is only through steady research that dangerous diseases can be detected at early stages and effective medicines can be found for those diseases that at present do not have a cure. Thus you must understand that an unhindered research environment is required as much as the laws.2. Researchers Concern: HIPAA Privacy Rules has laid down stringent guidelines for covered entities with respect to how personal health information can be used. Researchers already have to follow certain Common Rules when carrying on their research work and have questioned the need for additional riders placed by HIPAA. Furthermore researchers have requested suitable changes to be made in the Privacy Rules to put disclosure for research on par with authorized purposes like payment and treatment so that no other permissions are required to be sought by the researchers seeking such data.3. Public View: Public concerns over the misuse of their personal data are one of the primary reasons for strengthening of the HIPAA Privacy Rules. In the studies conducted to gauge public opinion it was found that most people understood the importance of research in the healthcare field, but were equally concerned about disclosure of certain sensitive information and wanted to be properly consulted prior to disclosing personal data.4. Releasing Data: Just like the public HIPAA too realizes the importance of research work in this field and have thus made certain provisions under which data can be released for research purposes.• De-identifying Data: HIPAA Privacy Rules do allow covered entities to disclose information for research after removing certain identifying data of the individual. This includes name, address, contact information and social security number among others. Furthermore it requires the researchers to sign an agreement for proper use of this data.• Authorization Wavier: In certain cases where the information is crucial to the research work and the perceived risks are low, bodies like the Institutional Review Board (IRB) may waive the authorization requirement for disclosing the data.In addition to the above information can be disclosed for research work if the individual provides a written authorization for the same, however such permission must be granted only after careful consideration.

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