Awareness : Security Awareness Tips

What is Protected Health Information (PHI)?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandated the adoption of Federal privacy and security regulations for protected health information (PHI). PHI is individually identifiable health information which is created or received by a health care provider, health plan, or health care clearinghouse. Such information relates to the past, present or future physical health, mental health or condition of an individual. PHI either identifies or could be used to identify the individual and has been transmitted or maintained in any form or medium (electronic, paper or oral).

Protected Health Information does not include education records covered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or employment records held by a Covered Entity in its role as employer. The regulations define eighteen fields as listed below which can be used to identify individuals:

  • Names
  • Geographic subdivisions smaller than a state, including street address, city, county, precinct, zip code and equivalent geocodes
  • All elements of dates (except year) for dates directly related to an individual, including birth date, admission date, discharge date, date of death, and all ages over 89.
  • Telephone numbers
  • Fax numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Social security numbers
  • Medical record numbers
  • Health plan beneficiary numbers
  • Account numbers
  • Certificate/license numbers
  • Vehicle identifiers and serial numbers including license plate numbers
  • Device identifiers and serial numbers
  • Web Universal Resource Locator (URL)
  • Biometric identifiers, including finger or voice prints
  • Full face photographic images and any comparable images
  • IP address
  • Any other unique identifying number characteristic or code

The complete HIPAA regulations, including the Privacy and Security components can be found at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/HIPAAGenInfo.

Posted June 20, 2005