HealthAugust 10, 2021

Is your organization protecting sensitive patient information?

Technology is a boon to the health industry.  However, the difficulty in curating and cultivating the massive data influx from patient care has been and continues to be a challenge.  As healthcare providers and payers are creating frameworks for meaningful data use and sharing, they cannot forget the protection of sensitive health information. 

The federal regulations outlined in 42 CFR Part 2 (Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records) limits the use and disclosure of sensitive health information. What this means is healthcare organizations must identify and filter data related to a substance abuse diagnosis and treatment to comply. Additionally, state and local regulations often create the need to include mental health, family planning, genetic testing, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to protect patient and member confidentiality. 

Growth in sensitive information post-pandemic

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and fallout from the last year, mental health diagnoses continue to grow for both adults and children. Mental Health America (MHA) has detailed their findings in a report: COVID-19 and Mental Health: A Growing Crisis.  As a result, the amount of sensitive information is growing exponentially. Payers and providers not only need a way to identify and use codes related to sensitive diagnosis, they need effective tools that make suppression of these codes easily repeatable and reliable.  

For example, think of the challenges associated with proactive care coordination following a patient’s discharge from a mental health facility. The goal for the providers is to keep the patient from having to be readmitted and instead, provide treatment in the local community care facilities. This means the mental health provider will want to make referrals to outside resources and keep communication lines open with the entire patient care team. Without patient consent to release sensitive information, the provider must suppress it in the patients record. Typically, this requires resource intensive manual intervention each time data is requested.  And with any manual process, the chance of errors and omissions becomes a huge risk.  

Improving safeguards of sensitive patient information

The ability to automate the masking of sensitive patient data provides payers, providers and patients the peace of mind that data is only shared with who it should be. Content that comprehensively addresses sensitivity patient codes is an important part of any technology infrastructure aimed at efficient and accurate identification and filtering of sensitive information.

Embracing an automated framework can ensure:

  • Compliance with legal, regulatory and licensing requirements
  • Compliance with 42 CFR Part 2, HIPAA, and varying state laws including concealment of information of minors under 18 years of age
  • Sensitivity codes are always up to date

Health Language Sensitivity Codes helps healthcare organization ensure sensitive information is protected. Representing categories such as Mental Health, Alcohol & Substance Abuse, STD, HIV, Family Planning and Genetic Testing, the Health Language sensitive content set includes nearly 40,000 codes. Other publicly available standard sets only contain around 4,500 codes and don’t include Genetic Testing. Health Language codes come from ICD-9-CM, ICD-10-CM, ICD-10-PCS, LOINC®, SNOMED CT®, SNOMED CT US Extensions, CPT®, HCPCS, UB-04® Revenue Codes, RxNorm and NDC. Publicly available standard sets also do not include procedure codes or UB-04® Revenue Codes. 

Keeping sensitivity codes up to date

By leveraging Health Language Sensitivity Codes, our clients are able to free up internal resources and improve accuracy. For example, healthcare organizations must continuously maintain sensitivity codes across nine coding systems—a complex initiative for resource-strapped organizations. Since the first half of the year, the Health Language clinical content team has added 10 new codes for alcohol and substance abuse, eight for family planning, four for HIV, 27 for mental health and eight for various STD’s.

Notably, an internal analysis found that Health Language sensitivity content was more comprehensive (adding more than 10,000 extra codes) and up-to-date (Health Language Sensitivity Codes updates monthly) when compared to value sets offered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration.

Unlike other industry value sets, Health Language sensitivity content includes additional codes for mental health such as: Z69.12 - Encounter for mental health services for perpetrator of spousal or partner abuse, F53.0 - Postpartum depression, F43.1 - Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the substance abuse category, the content set includes such codes as, SNOMED 295174006 - Heroin overdose.

Several of Health Language’s analytics vendor clients are using our sensitivity codes to accurately track and identify sensitive data within longitudinal medical records. This allows their customers the confidence to not only understand this data but to make sure they are not inappropriately transmitting sensitive data.

Wolters Kluwer is a licensed distributor for CPT, UB-04, RxNorm and hundreds of other standardized code sets, offering healthcare organizations the convenience and cost efficiencies of a single data provider. The Health Language solutions are designed to support health IT vendors, payers, health systems, HIEs, research and government organizations to improve search and documentation, support reference data management, enable semantic interoperability and data normalization, improve quality measure reporting, maximize revenue cycle management, meet Meaningful Use compliance and enhance analytics. Speak to an expert to learn more about the Health Language Sensitivity Codes.

Learn More About Health Language
CPT® is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association (AMA).
LOINC® is a registered trademark of Regenstrief Institute, Inc.
SNOMED CT® is a registered trademark of the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organisation (IHTSDO).
UB-04® is a registered trademark of the American Hospital Association (AHA).
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