The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a set of federal protections that regulate how medical professionals can use and share protected health information (PHI). As a therapist, you are required to adhere to HIPAA regulations during clinic communication with your patient. Non-compliance with these regulations can result in legal consequences and serious reputational damage. Sending a HIPAA compliant email for therapists can help avoid common HIPAA violations in therapy clinic communications.
HIPAA Compliant Email for Therapists
A HIPAA compliant email for therapists is a communication channel that is safe and secure to share PHI. Compliant emails adhere to the formal requirements of HIPAA. These emails have robust security measures like encryption to protect emails from unauthorized access. The security measures allow therapists to keep their client data secure even during transmission. Keeping patient information secure can help maintain the trust between therapist and client.
Common HIPAA Violations
Here are six common HIPAA violations in clinical communications and how you can address them.
1. Unencrypted Email Communication
Email is a convenient form of communication. Some therapists fail to encrypt their emails, leaving the confidential Information they share vulnerable to hackers. HIPAA requires that therapists encrypt all email transmissions. This keeps PHI secure from unauthorized personnel. Those who use non-secure emails violate HIPAA regulations. This could lead to huge fines and loss of client trust.
2. Texting PHI
Text messaging may inadvertently expose PHI. When you send PHI through text messages, you put client confidentiality at risk. Some messaging apps do not offer end-to-end encryption. This means anyone can intercept or access the patient’s confidential health information. In case you are texting PHI, use a messaging platform that provides end-to-end encryption to avoid violating HIPAA regulations.
3. Social Media Communication
Social media platforms can be a means of exchanging PHI. Most social media platforms are not designed to be HIPAA compliant. Unauthorized personnel can easily intercept the communication. To avoid this violation, therapists can use a secure platform for communicating with clients, such as a telehealth service.
Social media is also a popular tool for marketing clinics. Avoid posting any information about patients or their treatment plans. Using social media to discuss a patient’s care or vent frustration could violate HIPAA. Participation on social media sites must be restricted from any diagnosis, treatment plans, or sensitive patient information. Review marketing content and remove all patient-related information.
4. Improper Disposal of PHI
HIPAA requires properly disposing of confidential Information like patient paper records, empty pill bottles, or discarded devices like smartphones or laptops. The failure to dispose of PHI properly can lead to unauthorized access or theft of sensitive data. To avoid such violations, develop a system of proper disposal of all unwanted documents, hardware gadgets, or technology. This includes shredding or destroying them when they are no longer needed.
5. Open Communication Channels
Avoid discussing patient information in open communication channels such as public forums or chatrooms. Though such platforms may seem secure, any user, including hackers, can join, making them unsuitable for secure communication. When communicating with patients or sharing confidential information, use secure messaging platforms that offer end-to-end encryption, like a HIPAA compliant email platform.
6. Sharing Information Without the Patient’s Consent
HIPAA requires therapists or healthcare providers to obtain the patient’s consent before disclosing their health information. Disclosing information without the patient’s consent can lead to legal action and damage the therapist’s reputation. It is necessary to get consent when communicating with patient family members and other healthcare providers involved in the patient’s care.
Avoid Violating HIPAA With Secure Communication
Compliance with HIPAA regulations is a requirement for healthcare facilities to avoid penalties, legal action, and loss of licensure. In therapy clinics, HIPAA regulations can be violated in many ways, especially regarding communication practices. This includes using non-HIPAA-compliant messaging and social media systems, unencrypted emails, and open communication. Also, sharing PHI without patient consent can lead to a HIPAA violation. To avoid this common violation, therapists and other medical professionals should use HIPAA compliant communication forms of communication to enhance patient privacy.