New medical privacy rules are taking affect across the country, and patients will see some big changes at Stateline hospitals, pharmacies and doctors office starting Monday.
The new rules, years in the making, come in response to the technological revolution and fears that private health information could land in the wrong hands.
Patient privacy takes on a new meaning here at Rockford Memorial Hospital.
Medical records are being locked away, patients need to fill out new forms, and callers checking on the status of sick friends and relatives will get little information under new privacy guidelines now in place.
"The most visible change is when they come in for in patient or out patient visits, we're going to give them out notice of privacy practices. It's a rather long document that explains how we use their medical information," said Lisa Stravinskas, VP Corporate Compliance, Rockford Memorial.
The new federal law prohibits disclosure of information without patient permission for reasons unrelated to health care. Hospital officials say the transition is going smoothly.
"Our staff was well prepared to hand out the notice and answer questions so it's gone well today," Stravinskas said.
Maria filled out one of the new privacy forms at the doctors office. She says it was easy and the new guidelines are good ones.
"It's really easy for anybody to get your information and this will make it a lot harder. So I agree with it," said Maria Alegria, visited doctor.
Rockford Memorial Hospital officials say the changes were not a financial set back but did require a lot of employee time to prepare for them. What types of penalties do healthcare providers face if they violate any of these new guidelines?
Violators face civil and criminal penalties of up to $250,000 in fines and 10 years in prison.