Patient’s Guide to HIPAA – Basic Rights: Should I Read the Notice?

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You are reading the Patient’s Guide to HIPAA, FAQ 15

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FAQ 15: Should I Read the Notice?

Only if you want to. Every expert says that people should know their rights and understand privacy. We agree, but we recognize that people often don’t have the time or interest. Don’t feel guilty if you just don’t have the interest today to read the notice from your doctor, hospital, laboratory, pharmacy, etc. What is important is that the notice exists and that the record keeper who produced the notice has a privacy policy and – we hope – actually implements the policy appropriately.

The HIPAA requirement that each covered entity prepare a notice was a big advance in privacy protection. That remains true even if most patients never read the notice. The notice also tells a covered entity’s employees what the privacy rules are. That is just as important as telling patients what the rules are. In the past, employees often didn’t know whether there were privacy rules or what those rules stated.

To put it another way, you have privacy rights whether or not you know the details. Your rights do not depend on your level of understanding. You can do a better job of protecting your rights if you know more, of course.

Here’s what’s really important:

  • Read the notice when it matters to you. If you decide that you want a copy of your health records, that’s a time to read the notice and find out how to obtain the records.
  • If you think that there is an error in your record, read the notice and learn how to ask for a correction.
  • If you think that your records were improperly used or disclosed, read the notice to see if you are right.
  • If you have a privacy complaint, you can read about the complaint procedure that the rule provides.

When it makes a difference to you, get a copy of the notice and read it. That could be today or two years from now. You can always ask for a copy, even if you are no longer someone’s patient. If a provider or insurer maintains a website, it should post a copy of its privacy policy on the website. That may make it easier for you to find the notices that you need.

 

 

Roadmap: Patient’s Guide to HIPAA: Part 2: Basic Patient Rights: Right to a Notice of Privacy Practices (FAQ 15 of 65)

Jump to list of FAQs 1-65 | See all of Part 2