HIPAA: What Does it Mean for The Lighthouse?
HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is critical for all organizations, including nonprofits, that deal directly or indirectly with sensitive patient data – financial, medical, and other personal protected information. In light of certain recurring questions regarding patient information, however, we feel it may be helpful to provide the following on the importance of HIPAA compliance.
Lighthouse volunteers, particularly the Lions Clubs, have a long and rich history of serving patients and advocating on their behalf. They have been proactive, for example, in speaking to Lighthouse staff on patients’ behalf in order to determine eligibility, status, diagnosis, etc. While The Lighthouse appreciates the Lions’ good intentions, HIPAA regulations have dramatically altered our freedom to discuss patient information. Though HIPAA was enacted in the 1990s by the federal government, The Lighthouse – as part of our ongoing efforts to improve our standards of care and professionalism – has recently initiated training to become compliant and follow required regulations.
There are many components to HIPAA, but the HIPAA Privacy Rule – for our purposes, the most important component – is designed to protect patient privacy. Lighthouse staff are federally mandated to restrict any conversation about a patient to only the patient and/or the patient-designated representative/advocate on the HIPAA release form (attached to all Lighthouse applications).
How Can Lions Advocate Effectively?
If you, as a Lions Club member, wish to advocate on behalf of a patient, the patient must give his/her written permission on the HIPAA release form. Without this release, we will not be able to discuss or even confirm if the person is our patient. Failure to adhere to these guidelines puts The Lighthouse at risk for serious legal repercussions. We ask for your understanding and full compliance with this matter.