HIPAA: Your right to privacy

Notice of Privacy Practices

Notice of Privacy Practices (en español)

If you've been to your doctor, dentist, or any other healthcare provider recently, you should have heard about something called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Pay no attention to the top-heavy title - essentially, HIPAA merely means that the privacy and security of your medical information now has the backing of the federal government.

"You should see HIPAA enforced by every healthcare provider - the hospital, your physician, your pharmacy, your dentist - with the goal of keeping personal health information as private and secure as possible," says Ron Gaasch, privacy official for Community Hospital.

What exactly does HIPAA mean for you, the hospital patient?

It means just a little extra paperwork, for starters. The law requires us to give you our Notice of Privacy Practices when you register for any service of Community Hospital. The notice describes how the hospital uses and discloses your medical information, such as for treatment and to obtain payment for your care. You'll also be asked to sign a form indicating that you received the material. You aren't required to read or sign any of it, but we're required to give it to you.

If you're coming for an inpatient stay or treatment in our Emergency department, you'll have an opportunity to tell us whether you want the hospital to acknowledge that you are here or not. If you say yes, you can receive phone calls in your room and visitors can be directed to your location. If you say no, we will not give that information out to callers or visitors; we will only use it in providing your care and other hospital operations, in billing, and as required by law.

You may find that it's difficult for friends and family members to get detailed information about you when you're a patient. Even if you've said it's OK for us to tell people you're here, the only information we are allowed to give is your room location and a one-word description of your condition (good, fair, serious, or critical).

So if Aunt Millie calls from Fresno to ask how you're doing after your surgery, we won't be able to give her any information except to tell her that you're in good condition and your room is on Main South.

There are things you can do to get more information in the hands of those you want to have it. You will, of course, be able to speak to anyone you wish to give information to directly. You will be able to choose someone who will be the hospital staff's primary contact; with your authorization we will be able to give the details of your care to this person. And we encourage you to choose a family spokesperson and ask your loved ones to call that person for updates.

Community Hospital has always treated your medical information as private and confidential, but the HIPAA laws take medical privacy to a new level. It's not that we're being unfriendly - we're required by law to be that careful.

We appreciate your understanding as we comply with these laws, and we hope you'll let us know how we're doing. If you ever feel that our privacy safeguards have failed, please contact our privacy official at 625-4582.