Whether you’re a new CNA training student or a recent graduate from CNA training classes, one of the most important aspects of your job is going to have to do with conducting yourself according to the legal boundaries set by law. Of course, in order to save yourself from accidentally crossing over one of these legal lines, you’re going to have to know the laws, and exactly what they mean. It’s not going to be enough to simply study and pass your CNA training classes. You need a full understanding of the laws if you’re going to steer clear of any legal trouble. Let’s take a quick look at HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
CNA Training – What is HIPAA and What Does it Mean to Me?
The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)requires that you maintain the confidentiality and privacy of all patient medical information. In regular terms, this means you, the health care professional (CNA training graduate) cannot disclose any patient related information to anyone who doesn’t have the “legal need to know” about all, or some, of the patients’ medical information.
The privacy act basically means that patients and residents of medical facilities “own” their medical information. They must consent to sharing this information with others before it legally can be.
So, wait. Let’s backtrack. The HIPAA act states that some people do have the “legal right to know” without prior verbal or written consent. Who are these individuals?
Some of the people who have the “legal need and right to know” are:
- The patient and designated others, including a healthcare proxy, power of attorney, and anyone the patient approves of. This may include friends and / or family members.
- Healthcare providers who provide direct care. Physicians, nurses, CNA training graduates employed as licensed CNAs, physical therapists, laboratory technicians, and dieticians providing direct care to patient also have a right to know. This is where things get sticky and many CNA training graduates and other health care professionals cross the legal line. Only health care professionals directly working with the patient have the legal need to know. So, you discussing a particular patient’s condition, symptoms, medication, or other details over lunch with another health care professional who is not working directly with the patient is actually against the law.
- Insurance companies. Only the insurance companies, with legal, written permission from the patient have the legal need to know about patient/resident medical information and any treatment(s) that they receive. This is for the sole purpose of paying for their healthcare bills.
- Administration. Different departments of hospitals, care facilities and nursing homes have the right to know, because they become responsible to a degree for the patient. For example, the CEO or director of a nursing facility would need to be aware of a patient’s condition in order to provide proper care.
- Students – CNA training students assigned to complete the hands-on portion of their CNA training classes are also given the legal right to access patient information regarding some, or all, aspects of the patients’ medical records because the healthcare facility and the school have signed a legal contract to do so, and, this information is necessary for learning as well as the provision of patient care by these students. This access is often limited.
Whether you are just beginning your CNA training or are already working in the field, it is important that you are aware of, and stay within the confines of HIPAA laws.