Health Information Management

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

HIM-HIPAA Insider, March 31, 2014

Want to receive articles like this one in your inbox? Subscribe to HIM-HIPAA Insider!

Submit your HIPAA questions to Editor Jaclyn Fitzgerald at 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.



Want to receive articles like this one in your inbox? Subscribe to HIM-HIPAA Insider!

    Briefings on APCs
  • Briefings on APCs

    Worried about the complexities of the new rules under OPPS and APCs? Briefings on APCs helps you understand the new rules...

  • HIM Briefings

    Guiding Health Information Management professionals through the continuously changing field of medical records and toward a...

  • Briefings on Coding Compliance Strategies

    Submitting improper Medicare documentation can lead to denial of fees, payback, fines, and increased diligence from payers...

  • Briefings on HIPAA

    How can you minimize the impact of HIPAA? Subscribe to Briefings on HIPAA, your health information management resource for...

  • APCs Insider

    This HTML-based e-mail newsletter provides weekly tips and advice on the new ambulatory payment classifications regulations...

Most Popular