Health Information Management

HIPAA Q&A: You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers!

HIM-HIPAA Insider, March 31, 2014

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Submit your HIPAA questions to Editor Jaclyn Fitzgerald at jfitzgerald@hcpro.com and we will work with our experts to provide you with the information you need.

Q. We provide skilled nursing, assisted living, and memory care. Our server is secured and encrypted. Providers use their personal accounts to email our directors about their patients who are residents. Family members do this, too. We do not allow anyone to include PHI in their responses because we're concerned about the security of outside servers and the possibility that the email may reach an unintended recipient. Are we doing the right thing?

A. Yes. Using your internal email system to send messages containing PHI is acceptable because your server is secured. Providers should be encouraged to use their internal email accounts to share PHI about patients, assuming they can access these accounts remotely.

Otherwise, patients should be de-identified. For example, you could refer to someone as "the patient in room 301-A" because a room number is not considered identifiable information. Email responses to family members should be general and not include PHI.

For example, it would be acceptable to respond to a family member, "Your mother had a good night and is doing well this morning." If clinical information needs to be communicated, it would be best to do that by telephone or in person.

Editor’s note: Mary D. Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS,vice president of health information at Baylor Scott & White Health in Temple, Texas, answered this question for HCPro’s Briefings on HIPAA newsletter.

 

 



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