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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was enacted to create a national standard to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information. 

Since then, HIPAA has given patients more control over their health information by

  • Setting rules about the use and release of health records
  • Creating safeguards to protect the privacy of health information
  • Holding violators accountable with penalties that can be imposed if they violate patients’ privacy rights

The HIPAA privacy rule also strikes a balance in situations in which a person’s health information is needed to best serve the public. For example, a patient’s MOLST instructions may be regarded as personal health information. However, HIPAA allows the disclosure of a patient’s MOLST instructions to health care providers as necessary for treatment.