6 Best HIPAA Compliant Telehealth Practices

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“How to stay HIPAA compliant when using telehealth”? is one of the most commonly asked questions.  At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns were enforced across the country, which resulted in telehealth practices skyrocketing. Telehealth has been successful because it is an effective option to fight the pandemic. Despite being the only option at first, many people started to return to standard service delivery in hopes that the pandemic will end soon. Unfortunately, the pandemic still has no end in sight, and telehealth practices might be the only reliable option for treatment. 

Americans Brace for the 2nd Wave

The news of the Coronavirus second wave has renewed fears in the hearts of many people. Telehealth practitioners are giving their all to ensure the best for their patients as Americans brace for the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges, HIPAA compliance and patient data security cannot be ignored. 

Even for top-level healthcare executives trained in compliance and healthcare security, navigating the intricacies of HIPAA can be difficult. When it comes to HIPAA compliant telehealth practice, compliance issues often become complex because of the introduction of mobile devices, wireless communications, and a long list of technology vendors involved in delivering the services. Besides, healthcare workers may not understand how HIPAA applies to new technologies. 

Some of the Best Practices to Stay HIPAA Compliant

Any software tool can be used in an insecure way by medical staff, no matter how closely the tools follow technical safeguards outlined in the HIPAA guidelines. Here are some best practices you should follow to stay HIPAA compliant when using telehealth:

1. Downloading or storing PHI on unsecured mobile devices

Telehealth mobile apps are incredibly convenient. But providers need to be careful about PHI (protected health information) that are being downloaded or stored on their mobile devices. Consider implementing these steps as precautions:

  • Use strong passwords for your device. Multi-factor authentication is also strongly recommended.
  • Establish a process for reviewing data stored on the device before the device is thrown away or recycled.
  • Install a remote wipe feature on devices to erase PHI in case they get stolen or lost.

2. Establish a systematic HIPAA training program for telehealth staff

One of the core HIPAA administrative requirements is ongoing training for staff. Transitioning to telehealth can create new challenges and new workflows for employers and staff who wants to stay HIPAA compliant. Without a systematic training program in place, you may be at risk. Even more, if you haven’t added additional training as part of launching your telehealth program. Healthcare workers won’t be able to maintain patient data security if they do not understand the new security protocols they should be adhering to. 

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This can be best managed by using our HIPAA compliance software, HIPAA Ready. With robust learning management system capabilities, employers can add training materials, assign trainees, and set up schedules from anywhere in the world. Even if your staff members are working remotely, they can access the information with their mobile devices anytime they want.

3. Share your updated Notice of Privacy Practices with patients

Just like staff, patients also need to be informed of how you are protecting their PHI. Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP) is another essential component of HIPAA compliance. Make sure that you keep a Notice of Privacy Practices that is specific to your practice and covers your telehealth program. Also, do not forget to update the NPP and share it with patients.

4. Use a Secure Portal When Communicating with Patients

Connecting with patients has become incredibly easy because of telehealth. With just a few simple clicks on your mobile phone, you can easily communicate and engage with your patients. It may tempt you to reach out to patients via text or email to follow up on their treatment. However, this means you are sharing PHI in an unsecured way, which could potentially be constituted as a HIPAA violation. To stay HIPAA compliant when using telehealth, make sure that any identifiable individual information is protected with encryption and ensure that this information is sent out with apps or tools that are secure. 

5. Strong Login Credentials For Telehealth Software

Given the sensitive nature of patients’ health information, all healthcare workers must have unique login credentials. One of the most common HIPAA violations is generic, shared passwords. If necessary, institute a login monitoring process to track who exactly interacted with a patient and at what time. Each employee must have a unique username and password to log in to the telehealth platform that accesses PHI. Employees should also keep their credentials private.

6. Execute Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) with External Parties That Have Access to PHI

Entering into a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with any entity that store, transmit or handle your PHI is a sine qua non for HIPAA compliance. In addition to signing a BAA with your telehealth vendor, you need to know about any third-party organizations that handle your PHI. The agreement should specify how that entity will ensure the security of your patients’ data, document their security practices, and contingency plans, to name a few key requirements. The agreement should also be periodically reviewed and updated to account for the changes in the company’s policy or practices.

One Software for Your Computer, Phone, and Tablet

Whether you practice telehealth or see your patients physically, HIPAA Ready ensures that your practice stays HIPAA compliant all year round. This robust HIPAA compliance software offers users a modern and effective way to streamline tasks, such as internal audits, policy management, business associate management, risk assessments, employee training, and much more. Above all, it is 100% customizable and can be upgraded to suit your practice’s needs.

No extra charge, no hidden fees, with just $10/user, per month, HIPAA Ready will ensure you stay on top of your HIPAA compliance game!

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