HIPAA Cheat Sheet — Your Guide to Understanding HIPAA

Author: Joseph Jachimiec, Security Administrator

Looking for a HIPAA-compliant print and mail provider? Overwhelmed with the confusing HIPAA terms and security mumbo-jumbo? Look no further than this HIPAA cheat sheet.

Let’s take a quick look at HIPAA. By the end of this article, you should know enough HIPAA information to impress even me!

Let’s get to it…

Brief HIPAA History

In 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, otherwise known as HIPAA. In addition, Congress tasked the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with enforcing the new HIPAA laws.

The new HIPAA regulations not only enabled Americans to transfer health coverage between jobs but also detailed the requirements for businesses to protect our personal health information.

This same data protection is a priority for us at Nahan.

PHI and ePHI – What Is It?

These days, it seems like there’s an infinite variety of data and information. For HIPAA purposes, sensitive data revolves around our private and personal health information.

In the HIPAA world, this personal health information is called Protected Health Information (PHI). When PHI is in digital format–when it’s electronically stored, accessed, or transmitted–it’s called electronic PHI or ePHI.

PHI and ePHI can include:

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Medical Records
  • Photos
  • …and any other health information that can identify an individual

HIPAA specifies two types of organizations that handle PHI and ePHI, and thus must be HIPAA compliant: Covered Entities and Business Associates.

What’s the difference?

Covered Entities vs. Business Associates

Covered Entities collect, create, store, and transmit PHI and ePHI. They are the first line of businesses that are “covered” by the HIPAA regulations, meaning they must follow the HIPAA laws and regulations to avoid fines and other disciplinary actions.

Covered Entities include:

  • Hospitals, Clinics, & Urgent Care
  • Dental, Chiropractic, and other miscellaneous health care services
  • Health Insurance Companies
  • Health Care Clearinghouses

Business Associates, on the other hand, are businesses that provide various services to Covered Entities. For example:

  • IT Support Services
  • Document Shredding
  • Cloud Storage
  • Billing & Invoicing
  • Print & Mail Providers (such as Nahan)

In the course of providing these essential services, Business Associates may encounter PHI and ePHI. Therefore, Business Associates must follow many of the same HIPAA rules and regulations as Covered Entities.

As hinted above, Nahan is a Business Associate to our Covered Entity customers and we take the protection of their PHI and ePHI seriously.

In fact, we’re proud to be HIPAA Compliant!

Additional HIPAA Rules

No cheat sheet explaining the fundamentals of HIPAA would be complete without touching on the HIPAA Rules.

There are four main HIPAA rules. Lawmakers established these rules after the initial adoption of HIPAA in 1996. The rules clarify the older laws and set additional standards, especially for the protection of PHI and ePHI.

Here are the four HIPAA Rules summarized in true cheat sheet style!

Privacy Rule

  • Applies to Covered Entities only
  • Gives patients rights over their own PHI and ePHI
  • Defines steps for keeping confidentiality when communicating with individuals

Security Rule

  • Applies to both Covered Entities and Business Associates
  • Defines administrative, physical, and technical controls for PHI and ePHI data handling
  • Requires training and documentation for Covered Entity and Business Associate employees

Breach Notification Rule

  • Sets standards to follow after a data breach involving PHI/ePHI
  • Establishes conditions based on breach size
  • Sets requirements for reporting incidents to the OCR, HHS, and public media

Omnibus Rule

  • Amends Privacy and Security Rules
  • Prohibits the use of PHI and ePHI for marketing purposes
  • Sets further HIPAA compliance mandates for Business Associates


The HIPAA laws and regulations are a confusing landscape. Breaking it down into bullet points can help with understanding the big picture: protecting PHI and ePHI.

Nahan is a trusted Business Associate and provider of HIPAA-Compliant print and mail services. We meet and exceed HIPAA requirements for protecting our customer’s PHI and ePHI.

If you are looking for a HIPAA-Compliant provider, contact us today!

Joseph Jachimiec is a security, IT, and marketing professional. As the Security Administrator at Nahan, he heads up our information security program and is the go-to guy for our customer/third-party security audits and PCI, SOC 2, and HIPAA compliance initiatives. In his spare time, he dreams about what it would be like to have more spare time.

Image by ar130405 from Pixabay