Understanding HIPAA and FERPA: Key Differences Explained

Posted by Tonni Islam

Deciphering HIPAA

HIPAA, an acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, safeguards patient health data. This national legislation ensures that individuals maintain control over who views their health information. Core components of Protected Health Information (PHI) include identifiable details such as names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and unique health records.

Who’s Bound by HIPAA?

Entities categorized as “covered entities” are obligated to uphold HIPAA guidelines. This encompasses:

  • Health care practitioners
  • Healthcare data processors
  • Health insurance providers
  • Collaborative business partners

The Significance of HIPAA

HIPAA’s primary aim is to instill trust by securing patients’ intimate health records. Giving patients the autonomy to dictate who can access their health details ensures the safekeeping of sensitive data.

Common HIPAA Transgressions

HIPAA infringements can be costly, both reputationally and financially. Typical violations include:

  • Cybersecurity breaches
  • Not encrypting data
  • Misdirected patient data
  • Unauthorized discussion of PHI
  • Unauthorized PHI sharing on digital platforms
  • Stealing PHI-loaded equipment
  • Inappropriate disposal of patient files

Unraveling FERPA

FERPA, standing for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, is a federal regulation that preserves student academic privacy. Essentially, it shields the academic records that educational institutions maintain.

Parents or authorized representatives can peruse, modify, and determine the accessibility of these records until the student turns 18.

Who Adheres to FERPA?

Educational institutions, both public and private, receiving federal resources must comply with FERPA. This includes:

  • Primary schools
  • High schools
  • Higher educational institutions
  • Federally-funded educational agencies

FERPA’s Importance

FERPA ensures students and their representatives have the right to examine academic records, advocate for adjustments, and dictate who gets to see the student’s identifiable data. Consequently, before any data release, educational establishments must acquire consent, fortifying students’ data privacy.

Typical FERPA Infringements

Breaching FERPA can lead to federal funding withdrawals. Common violations encompass:

  • Denying records access to rightful individuals
  • Unintentional academic status disclosure
  • Unauthorized sharing of another student’s academic details
  • Publicly displaying student grades with identifiers
  • Permitting parent volunteers to assess others’ exams

FERPA vs HIPAA: Drawing the Line

Both FERPA and HIPAA are vital federal directives that uphold confidentiality. The key difference between HIPAA and FERPA lies in their areas of focus. While HIPAA or FERPA might seem similar, HIPAA safeguards medical details and FERPA, academic records. Non-adherence to these can lead to financial repercussions or funding losses.

For institutions seeking digital solutions, ensuring HIPAA software compliance becomes crucial to avoid penalties. ComplyAssistant is here to guide you. Offering cutting-edge GRC software and specialized healthcare cybersecurity services, we cater to organizations, regardless of size.