How Does COVID-19 Impact HIPAA and Telemedicine?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) hasn’t changed in recent years, but circumstances of late have impacted the treatment of the law.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare providers have started offering telemedicine services. HIPAA and the HITECH Act have requirements regarding technology specifications and how technology may be used.

Many of the ways telemedicine is currently being used is not in compliance with HIPAA.

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has stated that it will not penalize providers for using popular applications for video chats to provide services. These include:

  1. Zoom
  2. FaceTime
  3. Google Hangouts
  4. Skype
  5. Facebook Messenger Video

The OCR said that Facebook Live, TikTok and Twitch should not be used.

So should you use these applications to provide services to your patients?

You can, but be take precautions. Let your patient know of potential cyber security risks. As always, encrypt when possible. Consider using a communication product that is HIPAA compliant if you are going to provide frequent telehealth services.

When in doubt, ask your healthcare attorney. The current pandemic is temporary and OCR’s discretionary enforcement will not last forever.

Be prepared to transition to compliant applications and practices following the COVID-19 pandemic, so that you will not risk penalties and fines.

Let us know what if you are providing telehealth services to your patients! What has your experience been? Will you continue these services following the pandemic?

In our next blog post, we will keep you informed of related issues.  To get this important information delivered directly to your mail box, click here to Subscribe.

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