Recommendations to improving data sharing under HIPAA

In the report,"Using Electronic Health Data for Community Health"  from the de Beaumont Foundation and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, researchers provided healthcare professionals with recommendations into understanding the intricacies of data sharing under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to improve patient health.

The sharing of patient health information in hospitals and public health agencies may seem complicated by regulations set by HIPAA, but this report aimed to provide recommendations to improve understanding and health. The report was conducted using a legal research method with statutes, regulations, legislative materials, secondary sources, and practice materials.

In the HIPAA analysis section of the report, the authors explained the different aspects of sharing healthcare data with public agencies and how the data are being used. The analysis, which is split into a question and answer format, summaries HIPAA’s role in providing health agencies with access to electronic health data. The reports highlight comes in its conclusion where recommendations are provided for health departments in accessing health data and improving community health.

Recommendations included:

  1. Define key public health issues and goals with broad community support. By outlining important issues and the need to address them, agencies can begin the discussion of how data can improve measures in improving the health of the community.
  2. Develop a data request with a clear explanation, plan for privacy protection and plan for data use. A tangible request with added information regarding use and security measures outlines the cost of participation and provides helpful insight into how data is being engaged for improved outcomes.
  3. Obtain legal review to access key participants of compliance with HIPAA and other applicable state and local laws. A legal review showcases how plans work alongside HIPAA to ensure the following of laws.
  4. Provide for public engagement on the purposes, use and protection of data. Providing an engagement strategy allows public health agencies to gain support and remain transparent in plans using shared data.