What does PHI stand for in HIPAA?

by | Jun 29, 2023 | Compliance News, HIPAA News and Advice

In HIPAA, PHI stands for Protected Health Information, which refers to any information in a medical record that can be used to identify an individual and that was created, used, or disclosed in the course of providing a health care service, such as a diagnosis or treatment. This term encompasses a broad range of individually identifiable health information that is either created, received, maintained, or transmitted by HIPAA covered entities or their business associates. PHI encompasses not only electronic records but also their traditional paper counterparts. It encompasses a comprehensive array of health-related data relating to an individual’s past, present, or future physical or mental health condition, as well as their healthcare provision and payment for healthcare services.

Under the HIPAA regulations, PHI includes but is not limited to various types of information. This includes personal identifiers like names, addresses, social security numbers, and medical record numbers, which uniquely associate individuals with their health information. Medical history details such as diagnoses, treatments, medical test results, and immunization records are also encompassed by PHI. Furthermore, information related to billing, insurance claims, and financial transactions tied to healthcare services are considered PHI.

PHI extends beyond the scope of electronic records and embraces information in physical form as well. This encompasses paper medical charts, reports, documents, and any other tangible records containing identifiable health information. PHI covers data pertaining to an individual’s mental health conditions, substance abuse treatment records, and even genetic information, including genetic testing results and family medical history.

The primary objective behind the designation of certain health information as PHI (Protected Health Information) under HIPAA is to safeguard the privacy and security of individuals’ personal health data. HIPAA recognizes the inherent importance of maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of health information and seeks to establish a robust framework that ensures its protection.

By imposing regulations and guidelines on covered entities and their business associates, HIPAA sets forth a comprehensive set of standards for the handling, storage, transmission, and disclosure of PHI. These regulations encompass both electronic and physical records, creating a unified approach to safeguarding health information across various formats.

PHI Data TypeDescription
Patient IdentifiersAny information that can be used to identify an individual, such as social security numbers, medical record numbers, health plan beneficiary numbers, and other unique identifiers.
Medical HistoryDetails about an individual’s medical conditions, illnesses, injuries, surgeries, allergies, and immunization records.
Treatment InformationInformation related to the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment provided to an individual by healthcare professionals, including medical notes, progress reports, and communication among healthcare providers.
Test ResultsResults of laboratory tests, radiology reports, pathology reports, and other diagnostic procedures that contain identifiable information about the individual.
Payment DataInformation related to the payment for healthcare services, such as billing records, insurance claims, and financial transactions.
Genetic InformationGenetic data, including DNA samples, genetic testing results, and family medical history that can be used to identify an individual.
CommunicationsInformation exchanged between healthcare providers, including emails, faxes, and verbal or written conversations that contain identifiable health information.
Electronic PHI (ePHI)Electronic health records (EHRs), digital images, electronic prescriptions, and any other electronic form of health information.
De-Identified InformationPHI that has been stripped of identifiers, making it no longer individually identifiable, and thus not considered PHI under HIPAA.
Business Associate PHIInformation held by business associates, such as third-party vendors or contractors, who perform services or functions involving PHI on behalf of covered entities.
Mental Health InformationInformation related to mental health conditions, such as psychiatric evaluations, therapy notes, and counseling records.
Substance Abuse RecordsRecords pertaining to substance abuse treatment, including information about substance use disorders, treatment plans, and rehabilitation programs.
Research DataHealth information used for research purposes, provided that appropriate safeguards are in place and the required authorizations have been obtained.
Health App DataHealth information collected and stored by mobile health applications or wearable devices when it is linked to an individual’s identity.
Family Medical HistoryInformation about an individual’s family members’ health conditions that can be used to identify the individual or infer their health status.
Medical Device DataData generated by medical devices or equipment, such as heart monitors, glucose meters, or implantable devices that contain identifiable health information.
Health Plan Enrollment InfoData related to an individual’s enrollment in health insurance plans, including plan selections, coverage dates, and enrollment status.
Emergency Medical ServicesInformation obtained by emergency medical services (EMS) personnel during emergency response situations, including ambulance records and patient care reports.
Health-related CommunicationsHealth-related communications between individuals and healthcare providers, such as emails, patient portals, and online messaging systems.
Medical ImagingMedical images, such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds, along with any accompanying reports or interpretations.
Table: PHI Data Types


In the context of HIPAA, PHI stands for “Protected Health Information.” PHI refers to any individually identifiable health information that is created, received, maintained, or transmitted by covered entities or their business associates. It encompasses a wide range of data, including electronic and paper records, related to an individual’s physical or mental health condition, healthcare provision, or payment for healthcare services. The designation of certain information as PHI demonstrates the importance of safeguarding individuals’ privacy and security while promoting the responsible and secure exchange of health information within the healthcare industry.

3 Steps To HIPAA Compliance

Step 1 : Download Checklist.

Step 2 : Review Your Business

Step 3 : Get Compliant!

Our HIPAA compliance checklist will outline everything your organization needs to become fully HIPAA compliant. Fill in the form below to download it now.

View our privacy policy