PHI is Protected Health Information.
Protected health information (PHI) under US law is any information about health status, provision of health care, or payment for health care that is created or collected by a “Covered Entity” (or a Business Associate of a Covered Entity), and can be linked to a specific individual. This is interpreted rather broadly[dubious ] and includes any part of a patient’s medical record or payment history.
PHI is often sought out in datasets for de-identification before researchers share the dataset publicly. When researchers remove PHI from a dataset they do so in an attempt to preserve privacy for research participants.
Under the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), PHI that is linked based on the following list of 18 identifiers must be treated with special care:
- All geographical identifiers smaller than a state, except for the initial three digits of a zip code if, according to the current publicly available data from the Bureau of the Census: the geographic unit formed by combining all zip codes with the same three initial digits contains more than 20,000 people; and the initial three digits of a zip code for all such geographic units containing 20,000 or fewer people is changed to 000
- Dates (other than year) directly related to an individual
- Phone numbers
- Fax numbers
- Email addresses
- Social Security numbers
- Medical record numbers
- Health insurance beneficiary numbers
- Account numbers
- Certificate/license numbers
- Vehicle identifiers and serial numbers, including license plate numbers;
- Device identifiers and serial numbers;
- Web Uniform Resource Locators (URLs)
- Internet Protocol (IP) address numbers
- Biometric identifiers, including finger, retinal and voice prints
- Full face photographic images and any comparable images
- Any other unique identifying number, characteristic, or code except the unique code assigned by the investigator to code the data