Communications in healthcare is an increasingly complex issue. The use of texting and plain e-mail, and Patients access of their health information are two of the most current issues in HIPAA compliance and enforcement. Providing appropriate access is one of the cornerstones of HIPAA and has been identified as an area of serious non-compliance that has been targeted in the most recent round of HIPAA Audits. Proper evaluation and management of risks is also on the hot list for audits and enforcement, and that includes considering communications appropriately both with patients, and for business purposes that may or may not contain Protected Health Information. In addition, extensive new guidance from HHS about individual access of information makes clear many areas of the access rules that must be reviewed for compliance in every health care organization.
Violations are subject to enforcement that can include fines up to $50,000 per day and more, and years-long corrective action plans that can cost many times the financial settlement with HHS. Enforcement is no longer in the slap-on-the-wrist days; violations do bring significant penalties today.
With the advent of these new technologies and increased desires to use e-mail and texting, and with increases in audits and enforcement actions following breaches, now is the time to ensure your organization is in compliance with the regulations and meeting the e-mail and texting communication needs and desires of its providers, staff, and patients. You need the proper privacy protections for health information, including documented policies and procedures on which your staff has been trained, as well as documentation of any actions taken pursuant to those policies and procedures.
The stakes are high – any improper exposure of PHI against the rules may result in an official breach that must be reported to the individual and to the US Department of Health and Human Services, at great cost and with the potential to bring fines and other enforcement actions if a violation of rules is involved. Likewise, complaints by a patient if they are not afforded the access they desire can bring about HHS inquiries and enforcement actions, so it is essential to find the right balance of access and control.
In addition to HIPAA, there are impacts of the Telecommunications Protection Act (TCPA) that limit the use of cell phones for payment and healthcare purposes unless consent is obtained, and there have been recent actions by The Joint Commission to approve and then withdraw approval of using secure texting for physician orders.
The session will discuss the requirements, the risks, and the issues of the increasing use of e-mail and texting for patient and provider communications and provide a road map for how to use them safely and effectively, to increase the quality of health care and patient satisfaction. In addition, the session will discuss how to be prepared for the eventuality that there is a breach, so that compliance can be assured.