The main rule that governs healthcare privacy is derived from a 1996 Federal Law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

It was fleshed out by the Department of Health and Human Services, which began enforcing it as a regulation in 2002 and although the rule predates the rise of social media, its provision applies to what the regulations call “protected health information” in either digital or paper form.

The rule applies to all so-called "covered entities" -- which includes individual and group health plans, health care clearinghouses or really any health care provider who transmits health information -- and its implications extend to the worlds digital and social media.

A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that an individuals’ health information is properly protected without restricting the flow of that information needed to facilitate high-quality health care.

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