Patient’s privacy and doctor appointments always go hand-in-hand. The healthcare industry is committed to taking substantial measures to ensure that a patient’s medical or personal information is safely stored and not spread around into the wrong hands. That’s why the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, also known as HIPAA, is healthcare’s fundamental way of fortifying your data privacy.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “appointment reminders are considered part of the treatment of an individual and, therefore, can be made without authorization.” While this is a great step for healthcare providers and businesses who use automated appointment reminders, it is still vital to understand how HIPAA plays an important role in providing necessary information to the recipients of the messages.
The Importance of HIPAA
HIPAA was created to ensure security between patients and healthcare providers. The law simply safeguards health information, health data privacy, medical record copies, and data breaches.
Since it is a complex subject for most healthcare professionals, the liability risk is incredibly high resulting in difficulty with choosing which technologies they can trust to keep both patients and the business’ confidentiality safe. This results in a lot of providers sending manual appointment messages instead of automating the reminders.
How can one lessen the burden of manual appointment setting, and turn it into a suitable automated reminder that covers necessary and integral compliance without risking its accountabilities?
Notice of Privacy Practices: Your Main Key
Make sure that your Notice of Privacy Practices is updated regularly. This will ensure that your policy is clear and specifically understandable to what your patients are opting-in for when they receive the notifications.
You may also want your patients to verify their contact information regularly. By doing this, not only you give flexibility to your clients to decide whether to opt-in or not, but you also make sure that your automated message is referred to the patient themselves. If your patients choose to not receive automated reminders, make sure you keep their numbers added to your list of “opt out” numbers.
Keep Your Patients Accountable
Minimize the Health Information Sent
When creating automated appointment reminders, know what kind of sensitive information to include and exclude on your message. Use the name of the physician instead of what specialty the physician offers. Leave out any information about the treatment plan or diagnosis of the patient in the reminder. An example of this would be “You have an appointment with Mark Jones on May 23, 2020 at 4:00pm. Please reply yes to confirm, or call 949-555-1212 to reschedule”.
Remember that it is always possible for an unauthorized party to get a hold of these types of messages. Therefore, if you would feel uncomfortable broadcasting the patient information in public, don’t put it in your automated appointment reminder.
Also, it is best to keep things generic to avoid explicit communications. Generic reminders can include appointment date and time, provider name, and location of the appointment.
Contact and Work with a HIPAA-Compliant Officer
If you still have concerns about how to remain HIPAA compliant, your healthcare practitioner should have a compliance officer on-hand. They will be able to guide you in the right direction for your automated appointment reminders.
Additionally, choosing the right software provider for automated appointment reminders is important. Going with a HIPAA compliant provider is a great way to remain compliant while not having to worry too much about the specifics.
Being HIPAA compliant is an integral part of your business. Make sure you are staying compliant with the wording of your reminders. GReminders has HIPAA plans that can be tailored to your needs.