Submitted by: Mississippi Valley Surgery Center and Endoscopy Center
Kristine Stark doesn’t watch medical TV shows the same way as most people. Instead of focusing on the drama and the characters, she zeros in on the level of detail that’s shared about a patient’s health information or the manner in which patient health records are handled.
Her interest in these details stems from her role as the Privacy Officer at the Mississippi Valley Surgery Center and Endoscopy Center. It’s her job to ensure patients’ information is safe and secure.
“We want to make people feel safe when they choose the Surgery Center, knowing they’re in good hands with our surgeons and nurses and with a staff dedicated to keeping their private information secure,” said Kristine. “Knowing that that their private data is protected enables our patients to focus on what’s important — healing!”
Kristine joined the Surgery Center nearly 10 years ago as a Billing Specialist. As the privacy laws surrounding the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — or HIPAA — evolved, her role did, too. In 2015, she became the Center’s Privacy Officer.
“With the increasingly stringent privacy laws, the leadership team at the Surgery Center decided to appoint someone who was in charge of our patient’s privacy,” said Kristine. “We are highly committed to protecting our patients’ private information, and we take it very seriously.”
Kristine’s responsibilities revolve around keeping Protected Health Information (PHI) safe by developing the Center’s policies and procedures, training the staff in HIPAA’s requirements, and working to establish and maintain a culture of compliance.
What patients need to know about HIPAA
While most patients have heard of HIPAA and are familiar with its goal to protect their data, not all understand the act’s full implications. One example is who has access to their medical information.
“Most patients assume that their spouse or the person who is with them when they come in for the procedure can obtain information about their procedure,” said Kristine. “But that’s not actually the case. Patients must explicitly tell us who we can release information to.”
Because of this, the Surgery Center asks all patients to provide a list of people they want to authorize for private information when they check in. That list is then entered into the Center’s computer system. All staff are trained to check the list prior to releasing any information about a patient.
This is just one of many processes that Kristine has helped implement to protect patients’ privacy. The center provides shred bins for secure disposal of any documents containing patient information. The center has also implemented an email encryption system, so patients’ data is protected when transmitted online.
Privacy: it’s about more than your health history
This year, Mississippi Valley Surgery Center patients will experience new levels of privacy as the Center unveils its $8 million-dollar modernization project at its Dexter Court, Davenport location. The project will increase the number of private overnight rooms from six to 14.
“Private rooms create a better experience for our patients because they’re able to focus exclusively on themselves and don’t have to worry about what’s going on around them,” said Kristine.
As one of only a handful of surgery centers in the country performing minimally invasive outpatient total joint replacement and spine surgery since the mid-1990s, the Surgery Center has become a destination site for patients, surgeons, and other ambulatory surgery center teams wanting to learn our processes.
Since opening its doors in 1996, the facility has served more than 175,000 patients. As part of their long-term strategic plan, the Center identified the need for a facility re-design and modernization in order to serve even more patients over the next 20 years.
Instrumental in this growth has been the shift of surgical cases from the traditional in-patient hospital setting into lower-cost outpatient settings just like Surgery Center.
“As the demand for outpatient surgery increases and as the technology improves, it has allowed for more complex procedures to be performed in an outpatient setting,” said Michael J. Patterson, President and CEO of the Surgery Center. “This modernization project will enable us to meet that growth in state-of-the-art facilities.”
For more information about Mississippi Valley Surgery Center and Endoscopy Center, visit www.mvhealth.net.