The HIPAA Privacy Rule: Reviewing the Post-Compliance Impact on Public Health Practice and Research

Abstract

Protecting the privacy of individually-identifiable health data and promoting the public’s health often seem at odds. Privacy advocates consistently seek to limit the acquisition, use, and disclosure of identifiable health information in governmental and private sector settings. Their concerns relate to misuses or wrongful disclosures of sensitive health data that can lead to discrimination and stigmatization against individuals. Public health practitioners, on the other hand, seek regular, ongoing access to and use of identifiable health information to accomplish important public health objectives. The collection and use of identifiable health data by federal, tribal, state, and local health authorities support nearly all public health functions and goals.Identifiable health data are the lifeblood of public health practice. When aggregated, these data help authorities monitor the incidence, patterns, and trends of injury and disease in populations. Health data are acquired by public health authorities through testing, screening, and treatment programs.

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