New Patients are vital for growing and sustaining a Health Care Provider’s Practice. Patient attraction has become an enormous business resulting in highly visible Internet-based HIPAA violations and risks for providers. Websites, social media, patient satisfaction surveys, email and text messaging sold by vendors including Business Associates are all subject to HIPAA rules that are frequently overlooked or ignored.
HIPAA Rules for the most common patient attraction tools are clear and unequivocal. One look at a health care provider’s website can provide undeniable evidence of a HIPAA violation and indications of other violations to be investigated.
There are widespread violations of the HIPAA Rules for communicating with patients for patient engagement as well. These violations are being made by Providers and Business Associates primarily through unencrypted email and text message. A simple appointment reminder is, by definition, PHI even though it may not contain diagnostic specific information. So are Happy Birthday wishes, reminders that a patient is overdue for a checkup or has an outstanding balance on a bill.
You (Provider and Business Associate) must know how you can maximize your use of key patient engagement tools while protecting yourself and your organization from government penalties and patient lawsuits.
Health Care Providers have a mandatory “duty to warn” patients of risks associated with unencrypted email. A patient may refuse to receive unencrypted emails after being warned. Health Care Providers and Business Associates must strictly follow the patient’s restriction.
The information that makes a message subject to HIPAA- what is PHI? How can you have compliant behaviors in Social Media?
The “safe harbor” – How Health Care Providers may obtain consent from patients to send PHI in unencrypted email and unencrypted text messages and not be responsible for unauthorized access to the PHI in transmission or when received by the patient
What a Health Care Provider must do if a patient does not agree to receive PHI in unencrypted email or unencrypted text message
The requirements for a Business Associate to be able to communicate by email or text message with a patient on behalf of a Health Care Provider
How a Business Associate may protect itself from liability for violating HIPAA Rules about email and text messages in its Business Associate Agreement
What a Health Care Provider must do if a patient does not agree to receive PHI in unencrypted emails or text messages
How Health Care Providers and Business Associates may prove they are compliant with the HIPAA Rules through documentation
The Policies and Procedures Health Care Providers and Business Associates must have in place to comply with HIPAA Rules concerning communication with patients through email and text message
"Paul 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."