quora HITECH


HITECH Act reinforces the privacy and security of patient data through electronic health record management


Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health – also referred to as the HITECH Act – came into effect in 2009. The law focuses on reinforcing HIPAA guidelines and is defined under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). 

What is HITECH?

HITECH is a federal US law created to highlight the meaningful use of electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI). As per the law, US-based healthcare entities and their business associates should develop a viable approach for maintaining Electronic Health Records (EHR) of patients. The HITECH Act comes with a clear emphasis on carrying out security audits under the HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

What is HITECH Compliance?

HITECH compliance requires healthcare professionals and entities to implement meaningful standards for maintaining the electronic health records of patients. Health service providers should start using an Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology to meet the following obligations defined under the HITECH requirements:

  • Implement at least five clinical decisions 
  • Maintain a record of more than 60% of the total prescriptions
  • Exchange care records to other entities when patients are transferred
  • Patient-specific education should be provided to almost 10% of the patients
  • Create a safe and secure channel for patients to communicate
  • Allow patients access to their electronic health records

How Does it Affect Patients?

The healthcare industry can greatly benefit from HITECH by implementing EHR and Know Your Patient technologies for maintaining patient records. The law states that the Privacy and Security Rule under the HIPAA must be fully implemented by all covered entities. HITECH provides patients with two major benefits:

Access to ePHI

HITECH compliance allows patients to access their ePHI from health service providers with an EHR system. Patients also have the option to direct this right to a third party that acts as a recipient. Having an electronic health management system makes it easy for organizations to breeze through HITECH requirements and stay compliant. 

HITECH provides an incentive to service providers to cover the cost of generating an electronic report on the patient’s request which is directly tied with “meaningful use”. A robust mechanism to automate the electronic health data retrieval is thus the need of the hour.  

Data Breach Awareness

The HIPAA states guidelines on what patient information can be shared, defined under the Privacy Rule. HITECH was built to address the same problem while considering data breach laws of different US states. HITECH compliance requirements state that in case a patient’s PHI is compromised as a result of a data breach, the responsible healthcare entity must notify them. If 500 or more patients are a victim, it must be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of the US. 

Moreover, the local media and State Privacy officer need to be notified as well to take immediate measures for protecting patient identity. In some cases, the healthcare entity will be liable to pay back the breached patients for their loss of data. 

What are the Benefits of HITECH?

HITECH has a lot to offer to healthcare businesses such as technical support and the assistance required to meet patient privacy and data sharing standards. It not only establishes a connection within states exchanging health information but also enables the public health community to interact in case of a healthcare emergency. Below are some benefits of HITECH:

  • Improving care coordination strategies across the US
  • Enhancing record management solutions to improve public health 
  • Protecting ePHI of patients through privacy and security laws

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