HIPAA laws have been a thorn in the sides of health care providers since 1996. Then along came the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act or  HITECH Act of 2009, which is shaking up the medical community by mandating the transition to electronic medical records software.

Why HIPAA Laws and HITECH Act Meaningful Use Documentation Are Important?

The transition to and adoption of electronic health records is not as violent as Hurricane Sandy, but it could be equally as painful. The effects of the HITECH Act will last long after the recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

In recognition of the HITECH Act disruption to the medical community, the government is offering some assistance. CMS and the HITECH Act provides incentive money to health care providers who accept Medicare or Medicaid and also adopt electronic health records or EHR / EMR software..

To get paid by the HITECH Act EHR incentive program, healthcare providers must meet meaningful use criteria. In stage one that means the eligible provider must meet 20 out of 25 measures.

Some health care providers started receiving EHR incentive money in 2011. Many more are on track to receive meaningful use compliance money for 2012.

One of the mandatory meaningful use criteria deals with HIPAA laws. The eligible professional and eligible hospital must safeguard the privacy and security of patient protected health information.

Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) certified electronic medical record systems have demonstrated the capability to meet all of the meaningful use stage 1 criteria.

The core meaningful use measure :” Protect electronic health information created or maintained by the certified EHR technology through the implementation of appropriate technical capabilities” addresses HIPAA laws.

The certified EMR software will comply with the HIPAA laws. But EMR technology is not the total solution for meeting this meaningful use requirement.

Many EMR vendors tell the eligible professional that they don’t have to worry about compliance with HIPAA laws…Just let the EMR software handle the HIPAA requirement.


Healthcare and HIPAA Risk Management

In addition to the software compliance, HIPAA regulations also require health care providers to do a HIPAA risk assessment. Neglecting the risk assessment makes you vulnerable to criminal and hefty financial penalties for HIPAA violations.

There is lots of talk about the HIPAA privacy policy. But there are HIPAA regulations about the security of patient data. Catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy and the follow on Nor’easter represent data security risks.

You must have a contingency plan that is documented. It should contain things like an emergency mode operation plan and disaster recovery plan.

So don’t forget about the HIPAA security rule and EHR security issues.

If you get attest to meaningful use and receive HITECH Act incentive money from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) , you better be telling the truth. Providers receiving incentive payments are 40% more likely to be audited.

Will you be ready?

Documentation is key to the basic survival and smooth operation of your medical practice – whether you have electronic medical health records or not. Workflow documentation is required!

  • You can’t assume everyone in your office knows and remembers what to do.
  • You need to prepare yourself for turnover and re-training of your staff.
  • And it helps to be clear on roles and responsibilities.

** Key to passing the HIPAA risk assessment and a HIPAA audit is documentation of your policies and procedures. **

** Key to having a successful EMR implementation is workflow documentation.**

The HITECH Act provides a couple of compelling reasons to follow HIPAA laws and “put it in writing!”

Got questions?
about the HITECH Act, Electronic Medical Records or the
Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS)
EHR incentive program

I invite you to claim access to an informative

FREE Audio that will
about Electronic Health Records



Is electronic health record adoption a mystery to you?

Don’t have the time or expertise?

Want to take advantage of EHR incentive money?

Then you need

MUSICMeaningful Use System Implementation Consulting MUSIC
(Meaningful Use System Implementation Consulting)


EHR / EMR Software, HITECH Act, and Meaningful Use assistance!

Sandra Noble