Gridlock. Stand-Off. Obamacare Blockage. As I write this, the CNN ticker tape reads, “Shut-Down Show-Down in Nation’s Capitol.” No matter where you stand in the political area of what’s currently happening in Washington, it is clear that the American public is worse off for it. My heartfelt sympathies go out to those 800,000 good, faithful public servants whose jobs have been deemed “unnecessary.” And even as those federal employees are sent home on furlough, so, too, do we worry about the thousands affected indirectly by the shut-down – businesses and shops who depend of commerce with those 800,000, and who will also soon be feeling the economic pinch. May we move swiftly and competently towards resolution.
Meanwhile, as our national leaders argue over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, we small business owners are left to deal with how it will affect us on the local level. Many of us are still dealing with policies imposed by HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which had even stiffer regulations begin today. Any healthcare provider that electronically stores, processes or transmits medical records, medical claims, remittances, or certifications must comply with HIPAA regulations. That includes the messages you send back and forth with your own staff and answering service.
The Association of Teleservices International (ATSI), which Emerald Coast Answerphone and many other answering service providers are members of, has hired a team of lawyers to interpret what the Affordable Care Act and HIPAA mean to us. Simply put, identifying a patient by name or number and including just one piece of private information on that patient, such as their phone number, qualifies your text message or electronic page as ePHI (electronic protected health information). And to be compliant with HIPAA, all electronic transmission of ePHI must be secure, i.e. encrypted and/or password protected.
Since text/SMS messages are traditionally NOT a secure method of transmitting PHI, how can you have your messages sent via text/SMS and remain HIPAA compliant?
There are options and we have solutions for delivering secure text messages. These include a simple app for your smartphone which encrypts messages and protects them from intentional or accidental leaks. Through our state-of-the-art technology, our answering service does the following:
- We notify you that you have a new message;
- We encrypt that message;
- You tap the app;
- You put in your password; and finally,
- You read your decrypted messages and have access to all your other messages in our service.
Do you have a strategy on how you plan to deal with the new requirements regarding patient information?