HIPAA protects the rights and privacy of patients, but it can create barriers for historical research.
Photo credit: HIPAA logo
On August 21, 1996, The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted. The goals of this act were to increase the number of Americans with health insurance and make the entire sytem more efficient.
Although HIPAA provides protection for the rights of patients, it has created unintented difficulties for historical researchers. Since patient records must be held confidential indefinitely, researchers are less likely to be able to access information, even after the patient has died. The only way to release records to a researcher is to go through a lengthy process with the State. In most cases, these research requests are heavily redacted or denied all together.