Translating Protected Health Information (PHI) Under HIPAA

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Medical translation plays a major role in bridging communication gaps between healthcare providers and their multilingual patients. In the United States, medical organizations must find translation services that ensure the transmission of important and personal health communication to people with limited or low English proficiency. However, according to the Health Care Regulatory Compliance Act, this information must be kept confidential and not disclosed to unauthorized persons. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was specifically designed for this purpose.

Throughout this article, we will address how translation services are directly involved in complying with this law. We will start by discussing what HIPAA is, what its objectives are, what role translation plays in this area of healthcare, and some keys for translating Protected Health Information (PHI) under HIPAA. 

What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a U.S. federal statute established in 1996. Its purpose is to ensure that all sensitive health information of individuals is preserved securely and confidentially. Under this law, patients, in addition to having rights over their health information, can set limits and determine who can have access to it. As mentioned above, HIPAA is characterized by having two objectives in mind through the following rules:

  • HIPAA Privacy Rule: It aims to ensure that all health information is protected from the patient’s point of view. That is, from the point of view of customers, employees, and partners of any organization that uses their data. 
  • HIPAA Security Rule: Aims to preserve the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all health information created, received, or transmitted by any organization, institute, or provider.

Translating Protected Health Information (PHI)

PHI is shorthand for Protected Health Information, which includes any individually identifiable information about a patient’s health condition. This may include diagnoses, consultations, and medical reports, among others. It also refers to any information included in physical materials (such as prescriptions, forms, documents) and digital materials (emails, text messages, phone calls, video calls, etc). 

When a medical provider or organization needs to resort to a language services provider for translating Protected Health Information, each language provider must follow data confidentiality guidelines under HIPAA. Thus, in the process of transmitting this information into other languages, translation companies should offer:

  • HIPAA training: translators and editors who are to perform this service should be trained or receive training that teaches them the steps to take to protect PHI. This training should be repeated every two years or whenever regulations change.
  • Creation of formal policies and procedures: documents should be designed to outline how PHI will be protected in contracts and agreements.
  • Signing confidentiality agreements: translation service providers should ensure that all employees in contact with sensitive information sign a confidentiality agreement that limits any disclosure of patients’ PHI.
  • HIPAA audits: Each company must have a method for monitoring HIPAA compliance on a project-by-project basis. They must also have an extensive process in place to ensure that there are no linguistic errors or mistranslations in documents containing such information.
  • ISO Certification: In addition to undergoing stringent audits, it is ideal for medical translators to be ISO certified as this helps to evidence the accuracy, IT policies, and data security of the medical translations they perform.

Due to the multilingual diversity of the U.S. population, now more than ever,  medical organizations need to engage translation services to convey important and personal health information into multiple languages. Win & Winnow is a translation services company with almost 20 of experience in the market that excels in following HIPAA compliance guidelines. We have a team of professional experts in the field who are trained and prepared to provide you with the language solution you are looking for.

Are you looking for a HIPAA-compliant partner to translate Protected Health Information? Or would you like to learn more about our translation solutions? Get in touch for a free assessment and quote.

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Translating Protected Health Information (PHI) Under HIPAA

national caancer institute