Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Guidelines for Adhering to Regulation on Information Privacy – NSW Law

The Health Records and Information Privacy Act (HRIP) – which was commissioned consequent to growing concern over undesirable proliferation of health information of patients, both in public as well as private sector healthcare setups – has been a sweeping law overseeing the collection, storage, and use of health information in NSW. What has been notable is the fact the HRIP Act is an over-rider to all the preceding health information protection laws such as NSW Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (the PPIP Act), and the Commonwealth Privacy Act; enabling organizations to migrate to an all-inclusive set of guidelines for ensuring health information privacy.

As the Health Records and Information Privacy Act mandates health organizations to conduct their operations in congruence with the legal framework for protecting health information from getting disseminated to prohibited sources, there exists an underlying overhaul of both understanding and conducting of the practices that have a direct impact on health information privacy.

Tried and tested, the following set of guidelines has been known not only to orient healthcare organizations to the best practices in health information privacy, but also achieve the level of adherence as demanded by the Health Records and Information Privacy Act:

Guidelines for Complying by HRIP Act

Acquainting yourself with the Meaning of Health Information

The term, health information’, being fundamental in health information privacy, needs to be thoroughly understood by all of your staff so that they can make valid judgment on what health information comes under the ambit of health information privacy. Typically the following are covered under health information in section 6 of the HRIP Act:

  • Physical or mental health or a disability of an individual
  • Individual’s express wishes about the future provision of health services to him or her
  • Health service provided, or to be provided, to an individual
  • Other personal information collected in connection with the donation of human tissue
  • Genetic information that is or could be predictive of the health of an individual or their relatives or descendants
  • Any other personal information collected to provide, or in providing a health service.
  • Knowing What Information to Collect, How to Store and Access, and the Extent of Disclosure
    Having understood the meaning of health information that comes under the ambit of
    the act, the next step is getting down to the business of collecting, storing and accessing, and the extent of disclosure that can be made within the permissible degree as dictated by the HRIP Act.
  • Familiarize yourself with the 15 Health Privacy Principles (HPPs)
    Prior to setting out on collecting, storing and accessing, and the extent of disclosure, is a thorough acquaintance with the 15 health privacy principles (HPPs) that are legally binding, regulatory, and key to the HRIP Act.
  • Evaluate Existing Practices against Health Privacy Principles (HPPs)
    Having known the 15 health privacy principles (HPPs) in detail, proceed with evaluation of your current practices against the best practices recommended by the health privacy principles (HPPs), and elevate your practices accordingly.
  • Apply an Integrated Approach to Implementation
    The best way to comply by, and deliver on the HRIP Act is to bring in an integrated change to current practices that elevate to standards of the HRIP Act; a thorough run down of all the 15 health privacy principles will render the integrated approach easy.
  • Train Staff and Promote Awareness
    Adequate training of staff is the prerequisite in ensuring a successful and fruitful implementation of best practices in health information privacy as per the governing HRIP Act. Therefore, it is imperative that your staff know, understand, and practice the principles set out in act.
  • Ensure Timely Resolve of Remote Cases of Breach of the HPPs
    Despite a comprehensive system in place to comply by the HRIP Act, there are bound to be rare occurrences of breach of the HPPs, which call for timely resolution internally, so as to prevent them from escalating to complex legal cases.

Although practitioners/hospitals/clinics across Australia have been directing considerable human and technological resources towards HRIP compliance programs, yet there has been a unanimous consensus for consulting a medical typing specialist that can effectively iron-out in-house competency gap, and comprehensively undertake Health Records and Information compliance on their behalf at a relatively lesser cost.

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