Email and text message continue to grow with popularity amongst patients and amongst covered entities. And email and text message continue to be examples of a Breach! These methods of electronic communication are used as a way to discuss treatment, to market, and to engage the patient. And yet these methods of communication can be extremely unsafe. Interceptions, hackers, misdialled numbers can all result in stolen protected health information (PHI) and in HIPAA violations. All resulting in the loss of a patient’s privacy, maybe even identity theft, and in loss of funds for the covered entity. Today health records are more valuable than credit card numbers or social security numbers on the black market. As a health care provider or covered entity, it is your responsibility to safeguard PHI. It was once understood that email and text message were deemed appropriate if the email or text message were received from the patient.Since the Omnibus Rule, this has changed. Covered entities are responsible under HIPAA requirements for all PHI in every email and text message. The email or text message address alone are PHI as defined by HIPAA - regardless of the content. HIPAA requires that every covered entity has a “duty to warn” and has the responsibility of acquiring consent and keeping proper documentation. And yet this is not being done in a compliant way.
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Paul Hales J.D, is an expert in HIPAA compliance law. Mr. Hales is a graduate of Columbia University Law School, licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, Federal Appellate and District Courts, and Missouri state courts. He specializes in compliance with HIPAA Privacy, Security, Breach Notification and Enforcement Rules and is the author of all content in The HIPAA E-Tool®, an Internet-based, complete HIPAA compliance solution for health care providers and business associates.