Protected Health Information

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What Does Protected Health Information Mean?

Protected health information (PHI) is individually identifiable health information found in:

  • Electronic media
  • Electronic media transmissions
  • Any other electronic medical record (EMR)

PHI is considered a subset of health information. It contains:

  • Individual demographic information
  • Information created or received by an eligible health care provider or health plan
  • Information created or received by an employer or health care clearinghouse

Techopedia Explains Protected Health Information

Private health information is contained in electronic medical records (EMR) and must be kept secure. With the move to EMR, as required by U.S. law, patient and privacy advocates have become increasingly concerned that sensitive patient information and data be thoroughly protected. PHI that identifies health (such as drug abuse or mental health issues) can potentially lead to denial of employment or other opportunities. Thus, PHI must be properly protected to prevent the unauthorized access of private patient health information.

According to the Health Insurance and Accountability Act (HIPAA), IT departments have a primary role in PHI, as they are required to record each instance of access to such information HIPAA rules also acknowledge the increasing collaboration of IT and legal departments as they work toward the common goal of securing PHI. IT professionals and consultants are expected to play an increasingly responsible role, per HIPAA laws and other federal guidelines for PHI. As such, their value in the EMR arena is expected to surge.


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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.