HIPPA. This acronym strikes fear in most health care professionals. Just when you think you have all your bases covered and are compliant, yet another issue concerning this important policy arises making you question your sanity. There may be some ways in which you interact with and in regards to patients that you haven’t considered. This blog is concerning text and email interaction. Many dental professionals don’t realize that HIPAA also restricts the way they and their staff can use email and text messages to communicate with patients and other providers (specialists & insurance companies) in reference to patients.
Hippa refers to the use, storage, and disclosure of an individual’s identifiable health information, and is also referred to as protected health information. Examples include name, demographic information, mental or medical condition(s) (the past, present, or future), planned or completed treatment, radiographs, intraoral pictures, and financial information.
HIPPA regulations do apply to text messages and emails whether they are for scheduling appointments, appointment reminders, or any information sent to another provider (Insurance companies or specialists). This regulation also pertains to any email account from any computer at the workplace or home. Also, the dentist must obtain written consent from the patient to send any information regarding their protected health information.
HIPPA requires that security measures must be followed with these forms of communications such as secure messaging platforms or encryption. Encryption or secure messaging platforms doesn’t refer to password protection. Password protection merely protects against unauthorized access. Once the intruder uncovers the password, the information is presented easily. With encryption, the information gets jumbled so that it’s not legible without the key to decode the jumble.
In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll delve further into the specifics of what it means to be HIPPA compliant concerning texts and emails.