About "Crushing Kim With HIPAA"
HIPAA is widely misunderstood, not because of any one thing, but rather the accumulation of many confusing concepts, phrases and terms. This series explores those confusing things through the eyes of Kim, a hypothetical office manager in a small clinic named Memphis Family Clinic. Big hospitals have departments of lawyers and information technology specialists (I/T, CIO) to handle HIPAA challenges. Kim and Memphis Family Clinic do not have those resources. This series tries to show how challenging HIPAA is for small clinics.

Omnibus Rule and §

TLDR; Confusing HIPAA explanations have a residue of the legislative process that confuses Kim and the staff at Memphis Family.

This article discusses two examples of the confusing legal jargon that should not be in an explanation of HIPAA. The first is the word 'omnibus.' The second is the symbol §.

When the politicians in Washington are making bills into laws, they usually give the law a nickname. But if the politicians need to urgently make a whole bunch of smaller bills into law, then they don't give it a nickname. Instead they call it an "Omnibus Bill." An omnibus law contains a whole bunch of little laws and no big noteworthy law. Throughout history, Congress has passed many omnibus bills. So, in Washington and in legislative communities, omnibus is a familar term. But most Americans do not know what omnibus means. For most Americans, omnibus sounds like a tourist bus taken to see all the sites in a city.

And yet, many poor explanations of HIPAA try to convince helpless pupils that the Omnibus Rule is an important rule of HIPAA. These HIPAA educators, with little intelligence or creativity, couldn't see to it to change or rename the HIPAA Omnibus Rule into something meaningful. Instead of taking the essence of the Omnibus Rule and re-interpreting it for a lay audience, they just repeat it ad nauseam.

The second leftover-legislative-jargon, that should have been removed, is this symbol §. When I first saw this symbol, I didn't even know how to pronounce it. I thought that maybe it was a misprint of the ampersand symbol &. But it wasn't. The dictionary says: "Section mark (used to indicate a section of a book)." This is a symbol that is well known to lawyers, but, once again, is not known to most Americans.

It is not unusual for bad HIPAA explanations to include reference like: A stated in §164.105(a)(2)(ii)(C)-(E) ...

There are countless CE courses, magazine articles, books, blogs and videos where people try to explain HIPAA with words like omnibus or covered entity and symbols like §. The reason that HIPAA is SOO HATED, DESPISED, AND IGNORED BY HEALTHCARE WORKERS is because of that ridiculous legal jargon.

Recap of Horrible HIPAA Names

So HIPAA is laid upon this weak foundation of confusing and meaningless names:

  1. Privacy Rule (easily confused with Security)
  2. Security Rule (easily confused with Privacy)
  3. Omnibus Rule (meaningless leftover legislative jargon)
Three of the foundational rules of HIPAA are horribly named. The other, the HITECH Rule, is not much better. The problem with HIPAA is staring us right in the face: the rule names are terrible!

Try to imagine what it must be like for a new healthcare employee to have to sit through an all day HIPAA Introduction class where the instructor is tossing around these confusing rule names for six hours. And, by the way, their job/career/life depends on understanding this nonsense because that new employee can get fired if any of these confusing rules are not followed.

The ClinicNerds have nicknamed those horrible HIAPA explanations: Hard Legislative HIPAA. Apart from these blog articles, ClinicNerds avoids all of the untranslated HIPAA rule names. We avoid the confusingly named Privacy Rule and Security Rule. We almost never say omnibus. The ClinicNerds comply with the essence of those rules, without mentioning their horrible names.

Some Final Thoughts

There are a lot of fraudulent continuing education (CE) courses on HIPAA. One way to identify these frauds is to look in their so-called education materials for the word omnibus or the symbol §. If you see either, they are probably a huckster that is just cut-n-pasting sentences from the HIPAA laws and pretending that they are questions. These CE frauds are basically plagiarizing the Code of Federal Regulations (the 'book' where we keep all of our laws). If they use privacy, security, omnibus or the symbol §, then they are wasting your time and money.

It would be nice if there was somebody at HHS that was in charge of verifying the worthiness of CE materials. And had the prosecutorial power to shut down these thieves preying on healthcare workers.

Until the entire curriculum is rewritten, HIPAA will continue to be the most misunderstood and hated law in healthcare. The HIPAA Lifeguard App is my attempt to rewrite the curriculum so that Kim and the staff of Memphis Family Clinic can understand.

November 1, 2017
By Bert Ryan