Graham Regional Medical Center is currently preparing for patient protective policy implementations in the form of HIPAA requirements.

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was passed into law in 1996. The act provides a number of patient protections, such as limiting the restrictions insurance companies can place on preexisting conditions covered by group policies, and boosting patient privacy in terms of medical records.

It also firms up civil and criminal penalties in case of patient mistreatment, and has set in place several programs in order to control cases of fraud and abuse within the health care system. Essentially, the HIPAA requirements that GRMC is putting in place right now serve to bolster patient protections. Patients will be able to give feedback and rate doctors and nurses based on the level of care they receive, and the new policy also allows for patients to report problems in the case of any mistreatment.

Bonnie Blevins is the CFO of GRMC, and she says that though the policy guidelines of the act have been in place for a several years, the requirements are now being finalized. The ultimate deadline for implementation of the guidelines is Sept. of 2014, though some are already been in place at GRMC, such as the notice of patient privacy guideline.

“We have to tell every patient that all of their information is private,” Blevins said. “We have to show the letter that we get them to sign. It basically says that we've informed them of what we're doing, and this occurs where the patient gets registered, whether it's at our Young County Family Clinic, over at physical therapy, or here in our front office.”

Read the entire story in this weekend's edition of the Graham Leader.