Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI)

What does ePHI stand for in healthcare compliance?

In healthcare compliance, ePHI stands for electronic protected health information. 

 

What is Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI)?

To quickly brush up on some facts, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was passed in 1996 for the sole purpose of improving the healthcare system. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act improved healthcare by ensuring that employees receive continued healthcare coverage when in-between jobs and by prevented fraudulent crimes, minimized medical costs, and protected patient information. 

Regarding the protection of patient health information, there were no formal rules or regulations before HIPAA. The term “electronic protected health information” is actually referenced in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s Security Rule, more formally known as the Security Standards for Electronic Protected Health Information, which sets up the security standards for all electronically stored patient health information. 

The Security Standards for Electronic Protected Health Information rule was designed to ensure that patient health information was kept private while also improving the quality of patient care in an industry where the use of technology was rapidly spreading. The main themes addressed in the Security Rule are confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Confidentiality refers to making sure that patient health information is not communicated with those who do not have permission. Integrity refers to making sure that patient health information is not shared with providers or physicians who do not have authorized access. Availability refers to making sure that the patient always has their health information readily available to them. 

ePHI is essentially a patient’s protected health information that is created, updated, stored, transferred, or received in electronic format. But what is considered protected health information? Protected health information includes any of the following, according to the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act:

  • Patient name
  • Patient location/address
  • Fax numbers
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Account numbers
  • Beneficiary numbers
  • Websites
  • IP address
  • Date of birth or date of death
  • Dates of admission or dates of discharge
  • License plate numbers
  • Certificate number
  • Social security number
  • Medical record number
  • Serial numbers
  • Fingerprints or voiceprints
  • Photos
  • Any other characteristics, codes, or numbers

In addition to classifying what counts as protected health information, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act states where such protected health information can be stored. The means of storage can include computers with internal hard drives, USB drives, CDs, DVDs, SD cards, smartphones, external portable hard drives, and magnetic tape. And protected health information can be transferred via email or file receivers.

ePHI prioritizes protecting patient information in all electronic forms. Electronic patient health information has helped streamline the healthcare industry, increased patient engagement, coordinated information from multiple providers, reduced administrative costs, enhanced communication, and much more.

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