E-Mailing, Texting, And The Use Of Personal Devices By Health Care Professionals – HIPAA And Privacy Myths Vs Reality!

Mark R. Brengelman

Mark R. Brengelman

Mark holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Philosophy from Emory University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Kentucky. Retiring as an Assistant Attorney General, he now represents Health care professionals Two government ethics commissions, and Parents and kids in confidential child abuse and neglect cases,...
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60 Mins
Mark R. Brengelman

Unraveling the complexities of HIPAA and state licensure laws in the digital age...

While the basic provisions of privacy for protected health information are well known, their application in today’s world of electronic and personal communication devices is complex – such as texting, e-mailing, and using personal devices such as smart phones and tablet computers. In addition to HIPAA rules, various state licensure laws exist to require confidential information be kept confidential.

This is more important than ever in our new work-from-home and mobile society.

Many security rules regarding protected health information involve how and when protected health information is to be kept confidential and not accessible to others outside of direct patient care. But what is protected health information?  Can communications not involving such protected health information be transmitted by non-confidential and non-secure methods? Is even a patient name protected health information?

The ability to text or e-mail health care practitioners and other staff and patients has become a priority for many health care entities and practitioners, especially solo health care practitioners with limited support staff. Maintaining patient privacy and confidentiality is necessary to make sure covered entities meet compliance standards of HIPAA and state licensure laws. 

Although e-mailing and texting are convenient for the health care practitioner and patient, these communication methods have security risks and inherent pitfalls. Implementing e-mail and text solutions in the health care setting is a complex issue and several factors must be addressed.

Erase the fear, uncertainty, and doubt about exactly how a health care practitioner may use modern texting and e-mailing, both within their own health care organization or facility and to the outside world of patients. Find out how these communications may or may not be required to be retained by the health care practitioner.

Webinar Objectives

  • Identifying the basics of HIPAA privacy as to electronic communication devices in the mobile world;
  • Analyzing the basics of HIPAA and the use of electronic communications to permit their compliant use;
  • Citing examples of state licensure laws governing protected health information and solving how to apply them to the health care practitioner;
  • Reviewing elements of privacy notices and communications practices with patients to solve compliance issues;
  • Bonus: examining website confidentiality and privacy disclaimers for the health care practitioner with their own website about how communications are handled.

Webinar Agenda

  • HIPAA Privacy Rule and Email Usage:
    • Introduction to the basic question: Does HIPAA permit health care providers to use email for patient communication?
    • Explore how HIPAA privacy rules allow electronic communication with patients and other practitioners, emphasizing the need for reasonable safeguards.
  • Precautions for Unintentional Disclosures:
    • Discuss specific precautions when using email, including accuracy checks before sending and email alerts for address confirmation.
    • Address the reasonable application of safeguards to limit information disclosure in unencrypted emails.
  • Compliance with HIPAA Security Rule:
    • Emphasize that covered entities must ensure electronic transmission of protected health information complies with HIPAA Security Rule requirements.
  • Patient Rights and Alternative Means of Communication:
    • Explain patients' rights under HIPAA to request alternative means or locations for communication.
    • Provide examples, such as accommodating a patient's request to receive appointment reminders via email.
  • Acceptability of Unencrypted Email:
    • Discuss scenarios where patients find unencrypted email unacceptable for confidential communications.
    • Explore alternative secure electronic methods, mail, or telephone communication.
  • PatientInitiated Communications:
    • Address situations where patients initiate communication via email, implying consent and usage.
    • Highlight how providers can assess patient acceptance and address potential risks and concerns.
  • Updating Patient Consent and Communication Practices:
    • Guide on reviewing and updating patient consent and communication practices for specific electronic communication methods.
    • Aim to alleviate fears and uncertainties surrounding patient communication within legal constraints.
  • State Licensure Laws and Electronic Communication:
    • Clarify the application of state licensure laws to the confidentiality of patient protected health information in electronic communications.
    • Provide examples of state laws that may be stricter than HIPAA.
  • Advanced Overview of Governing Rules:
    • Summarize the webinar as an advanced overview of rules by HIPAA at the federal level and state licensure laws governing email and texting in health care communications.
    • Emphasize the importance of understanding and complying with these regulations.

Who Should Attend

Health care attorneys; corporate compliance officers in health care; medical records staff of medical offices and health care entities; hospital attorneys; health care practitioners who are covered entities; law enforcement officers in health care compliance; state boards and agencies with jurisdiction over state licenses to practice a health care profession

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