HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is legislation implemented by the federal government in 1996. This act is meant to create known codes for electronic billing by medical professional and insurance companies across the board. It also recognized that in doing this, an individual's privacy may have been put at risk. For the purpose of protecting individuals from undue breaches of privacy, HIPAA was adjusted in 2002-2004 to require health care professionals and other health related organizations to maintain the privacy of individuals seeking care by penalty of law.
In laymen's terms, if a doctor, psychologist, health care provider, or insurance representative shares information about your medical record with someone outside the purview of billing or care without your express consent, they can be legally prosecuted. It also means that you are legally entitled to your health records within a reasonable time frame.
For more information about the details of your rights under HIPAA, feel free to ask me or see www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/index.html