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Everyone is going electronic! And this includes the Health Industry worldwide, and with the advent of health providers turning to more convenient, cost effective ways of storing and accessing patients medical information, it only makes sense that agencies would seek to make sure that this is done in a safe way. HIPAA is an acronym that stands for the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a privacy law implemented in the United States of America, that is designed to provide standards to protect patients’ medical information. HIPAA was developed by the Department of Health and Human Services, whose primary role is to be the agency that safeguards the health of all Americans, regardless lf economic or racial class. The rules set under HIPAA provide patients with not only access to their medical records but give them a say in how they are utilized. HIPAA was officially introduced on April 14, 2003.
HIPAA hosts its “Security Standards” which govern the security of access control to patient information, monitors and can map document actions and also provides regulations to ensure that the staff handling patient records is properly trained. The implementation of HIPAA has changed the way how health care workers view patients’ information and not only holds them liable for unfair practices, but ensures that every member of the team understands the importance of safeguarding patients medical records and educates staff on the exact ways to achieve this. HIPAA training is the US is required by law and this reduces the chances of legal actions being taken against the business. It can therefore be said that HIPAA is beneficial to all stakeholders in the health industry.
In Jamaica, there is currently no act such as HIPAA that has been implemented to protect the data collected from patients. However, the somewhat good news is that in October of 2017, a bill for privacy and data protection was introduced, the “Act to Protect the Privacy of Certain Data and for Connected Matters”. However, for this bill to become a law in Jamaica, it must successfully pass through the Senate and Jamaica House. If passed, this law will govern, similar to the HIPAA in the USA, personal data, such as medical information. The bill contains requirements or standards for the processing of personal data, such as not collecting more information than is needed, the timeline in which data collected should be retained and to be accurate and kept up to date. The bill covers many important points in data protection; however, it is still a bill to date and has not been passed. Until this bill becomes the Data Privacy Act of Jamaica, persons who misuse patient records and who partake in unfair practices cannot be held accountable and legislative actions cannot be taken against them. This therefore leaves patients defenseless and also lowers the standards expected of health care workers.
With what was said above, my recommendations to Jamaica is that there should be an urgency in passing the bill before this year ends and also that once it is passed, it should be mandatory that all health care workers are trained in Data Protection and Privacy and that the public is made aware of their rights, so that the standard of health care in Jamaica can be on par with that of countries that have set the bar.
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