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The Value of Health Information Privacy and Security Week
By Lori Osborne

Since 1928, HIM professionals have dedicated their careers to protecting personal health information (PHI) and over the last several years, HIPAA’s requirements for us to change and learn have been massive. The AHIMA proudly sponsors Health Information Privacy and Security Week to recognize the efforts of the HIM professionals in protecting health information but also to raise awareness among healthcare professionals, their employers, and the public of the importance of protecting the privacy, confidentiality, and security of PHI.

Raising both the public and healthcare professionals’ awareness is the best way to ensure privacy and security of PHI. Therefore, during Health Information Privacy and Security Week, HIM professionals will take our commitment to protecting the privacy and security of health information to the American public. We will educate the public and healthcare providers about the importance of protecting PHI while also promoting the critical role of HIM professionals.

HIM professionals have an enormously valuable perspective and decades of experience in managing health privacy issues. This offers us all a front-and-center opportunity—and responsibility—to lead the nation in helping balance society’s interest in data sharing with the public’s vital interest in the confidentiality of health information. Challenges have included implementing HIPAA regulations, the move to a national health information network, and the transition to EHRs. There are unique challenges associated with each of these initiatives, and HIM professionals are uniquely qualified to play a vital role.

As part of the mission to spread the word about privacy and security, the AHIMA encourages HIM professionals to actively participate by getting the word out to your colleagues in other departments by holding in-house training seminars and learning activities and encouraging each department to review their policies and procedures to ensure they are HIPAA compliant. Share information with the public about privacy and security by doing the following:

• holding community seminars and presentations with a Q & A session;

• preparing an informational display in the lobby of your facility; and/or

• working with your community newspaper or local TV and radio stations to do a story on healthcare privacy and security.

Seminars can be held at your facility, local community centers, or retirement communities, as seniors are some of the most frequent healthcare users. The AHIMA’s Health Information Privacy and Security Week planning kit provides articles and quizzes for healthcare professionals and the public, as well as a PowerPoint presentation for educational seminars. Visit www.ahima.org/hipsweek to access the planning kit.

We also encourage AHIMA members to be proactive in addressing regulatory challenges and opportunities facing the HIM profession. AHIMA members can visit www.ahima.org and log on to myAHIMA.com to visit the Advocacy Assistant. There you can write letters to Congress, learn about the legislative and regulatory process, and find and contact your local media and state-elected officials on important HIM issues. The Advocacy Assistant even provides you with sample letters to invite elected officials and other policy makers to visit your facilities or to speak at your state meetings.

As our healthcare system continues to rapidly evolve, so will our vital role in protecting health data. Health Information Privacy and Security Week is a great time to demonstrate our expertise and capability to meet the demands of a modern healthcare system. Protecting the privacy and security of PHI is a mission, and it is essential to maintaining the trust of the people and communities we serve. Honoring that commitment is the basis for Health Information Privacy and Security Week.

— Lori Osborne is a senior marketing manager at the AHIMA.