Effective communication with patients is a cornerstone of quality patient care and email and texting are simple and time saving communication tools.HIPAA law applies to these forms of communication but is misunderstood by most health care providers and business associates.Appointment reminders, healthcare instructions, patient satisfaction surveys, health and wellness newsletters and recall reminders are just a few patient engagement tools sent electronically by regular (unencrypted) email and text messaging.
The HIPAA Rules for sending Protected Health Information (PHI) by unencrypted electronic transmission are clear – and new. The first became effective with the HIPAA Omnibus Rule (September, 2013). Further, important guidance was published by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2014 and 2016
Patient Engagement is a cornerstone of effective patient care.Communication technology offers indispensable patient engagement tools.Secure patient portals are available.So are encrypted text message and email products. But patients overwhelmingly choose non-secure communication tools like text messaging and email.
There is a simple 3 step HIPAA "safe harbor" that frees Covered Entities and Business Associates from any responsibility or liability for unauthorized access to Protected Health Information (PHI) in unencrypted emails and text messages during transmission and after receipt by the patient.
There are widespread violations of the HIPAA Rules for communicating with patients by unencrypted email and text message - largely because Providers and Business Associates just don't know the rules – and don't understand what PHI really is – as defined by HIPAA.
The HIPAA Rules and HHS/OCR guidance provide a simple, easy to use 3 Step Safe Harbor for using unencrypted email and text messaging to engage patients.This session will explain the 3 Step HIPAA Safe Harbor.The secret is – HIPAA Rules are easy to follow, step-by-step – when you know the steps.
This webinar for HIPAA Covered Entities and Business Associates will cover:
1.A clear explanation of the simple 3 Step HIPAA Safe Harbor that protects Covered Entities and Business Associates acting on their behalf from liability related to Patient Engagement by unencrypted email and text messaging.
2.What makes an email or text message subject to HIPAA law.
3.A clear explanation of how HIPAA defines PHI – it's not just information about, for example, a diagnosis, disease, surgery or prescribed treatment.
4.How a 2015 Federal Communications Commission Order about health care text messages added to confusion and what it really means – the 3 Step HIPAA Safe Harbor is the only text message Safe Harbor for Covered Entities and Business Associates.
5.The interconnected liability of Covered Entities and Business Associates that provide unencrypted electronic patient engagement services like appointment reminders – and both can protect themselves.
HIPAA Compliance Official
HIPAA Privacy Officer
HIPAA Security Officer
Health Information Technology Supervisor
Paul R. Hales received his Juris Doctor degree from Columbia University Law School and is licensed to practice law before the Supreme Court of the United States. He is an expert on HIPAA Privacy, Security, Breach notification and Enforcement Rules with a national HIPAA consulting practice based in St. Louis. Paul is the author of all content in The HIPAA E-Tool, an Internet-based, Software as a Service product for health care providers and business associates.