If you’ve been to the doctor, the pharmacy or the hospital lately, you’ve probably been given a Notice of Privacy Practices and then been asked to sign that you received the document. It’s lengthy, so many people haven’t read it in detail.

The Privacy Rule is part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This rule gives patients rights that include having access to their medical records and giving them more control over how protected health information is used and disclosed. If a patient feels his or her health information isn’t being protected, the rule explains ways to file complaints and seek a remedy.

Your personal health information includes the following:

  • Information in your medical record
  • Conversations your doctor has about your care and treatment with nurses and others
  • Information contained in your health insurance records
  • Billing information

Under the Privacy Rule, you would need to give written permission before your information can be shared. For instance, your health information cannot be shared with your employer without your permission. Also, private information about any mental health counseling sessions can only be shared with your consent.

If you are admitted to the hospital, you can decide whether you want to be listed in the hospital’s patient directory. This directory is used when your friends or family call to get your room number. If you want to be listed as a “no information patient,” please let your nurse know as soon as possible. As a no information patient, you will need to provide your phone number and room number to the loved ones you want to have this information. In other words, if someone calls the hospital operator and asks to speak to you, the operator will respond, “We do not have a person by that name listed as a patient at our hospital.”

You also can designate a family member or close friend who can receive health information during your hospital stay. This can be helpful to you so that other friends and family members can contact that person directly to see how you are doing.

Your privacy is important to us at United Regional. We suggest you take a few minutes to read through the Notice of Privacy Practices materials. This will give you a better understanding of how we are protecting your health information. You also can read more about protecting your health information at www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa.