HIPAA Privacy Rules Support Fund Development

By Erin Stitzel, CFRE, Accordant Philanthropy

As a foundation board member or hospital trustee, you’ve likely received education about HIPAA, otherwise known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA legislation was enacted to provide data privacy and security provisions to safeguard the protected health information (PHI) of patients.

Given that grateful patients and families are most likely to make significant philanthropic contributions to health care organizations, it is essential for the foundation or development organization to know who is being treated in the health care organization. However, it remains of vital importance to simultaneously ensure the organization has a clear understanding of what information may be appropriately accessed and utilized for fund development purposes.

While HIPAA laws have always allowed development organizations the ability to access demographic information— such as name, contact information and insurance status—for patients being treated in the hospital, provisions of the HITECH act in 2013 expanded the information accessible to include area/department of clinical service, treating physician name and patient outcome. These provisions provide a host of new opportunities to engage prospective grateful patient donors that ensure strategic focus and optimization of time and resources.

The most significant opportunity presented is the potential to directly involve willing physicians and clinicians in the purposeful identification and engagement of grateful patients and families. Multiple studies show physicians play a critically important role in identifying and introducing potential grateful patient and family prospects to development organizations, and physician referrals are often the primary way development organizations identify prospective grateful patient donors.

Because development is allowed to access treating physician information, development can ask willing physicians to participate in the cultivation of grateful patient and family prospects. This can be done by asking willing physicians to review lists of prospective patient prospects to identify patients who have had an exceptional care experience or by directly involving them in the philanthropy effort by asking them to invite or participate in cultivation meetings with prospective patient donors. The input of the organization’s physicians, who arguably have the most influential relationships with the health care organization’s patients and families, can have a profound effect on the development team’s ability to identify and cultivate viable, worthwhile prospects.

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