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How to Fulfill HIPAA Privacy Requirements

Tuesday, December 22, 2009
By Anne Kramer

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets a national standard for transferring health data electronically. The guidelines of this act protect patient confidentiality, striking a balance between personal and public interests in medical data. The HIPAA Privacy rule applies to health care providers, health plans (such as insurance companies or Medicare), and health care clearinghouses.

In the case of health care providers, fulfilling HIPAA requirements can present a unique challenge, due to the high volume of patient interaction. The constant stream of patients checking in and out means that staff must work even harder to maintain confidentiality, since patients may be able to see medical information or hear discussions about patient care. The right ergonomic tools can ensure the HIPAA compliance of those areas, in addition to protecting the health of medical professionals.

  • The computer screen often displays confidential patient information. To protect the screen from wandering eyes, a privacy filter easily slides or clips into place. The person using the computer can still see the screen, but those viewing from another angle see only a blackout or blur. In addition to shielding the screen, these filters provide anti-glare and anti-static protection for both desktop and laptop computers.

    Alternatively, a monitor hood can be fitted over the monitor, limiting screen viewing to those seated directly in front of the monitor. Like a privacy filter, a monitor hood fights glare. Its neutral interior also promotes healthy eye performance by reducing the contrast between the screen and its surroundings.

  • The tabs of a patient’s chart usually display the patient’s name and other identifiers very prominently. Yet even this basic information is protected under HIPAA requirements, so it is important to keep it out of other patients’ sight. Patient chart holders should be fitted with extra-deep pockets that obscure the view of patient information on the chart’s tabs.

    Wall-mounted patient chart holders should be hung at the correct height, to prevent unnecessary reaching up or bending down to retrieve files. These motions can place stress on the back, neck, and arms, placing medical personnel at risk of injuries like muscle strain and fatigue, or other repetitive stress injuries (RSI).

  • Discussions of patient treatment, care, and even appointment times are all necessary conversations for health care providers. As a result, reception areas in medical offices often include a sliding glass window, to provide confidentiality during these confidential discussions. Under HIPAA guidelines, the window must be closed unless medical personnel are actively speaking with a patient.

    This requirement means that reception staff constantly opens and closes the window all day long. Fitting the window with an ErgoGlide minimizes the physical impact of that repetitive motion, relieving constant strain on the neck, shoulders, back and arms. The ErgoGlide’s extended handle also allows the user to stay seated while opening the window.

HIPAA requirements mean additional vigilance and heightened awareness for all medical personnel. By incorporating simple ergonomic tools in the workplace, medical staff can both maintain confidentiality and safeguard their own health.




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