Social distancing to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus is effective, but offices are used to working as teams, face-to-face, and social distancing requires that staff that can work from home does work from home.
In addition, patient care has typically required a face-to-face encounter, which can cause the spread of the virus in the process, and as infected individuals travel to and from appointments. It is essential to be able to work from home while protecting privacy and security and provide telemedicine services in order to reach the most individuals without risking harm.
HIPAA calls for adequate consideration of privacy and security for patient information, considering administrative, technical, and physical security, and working from home impacts all of those safeguards. HIPAA regulations put controls on the appropriate technologies to use for communications, and can require that a Business Associate relationship be established when using any services that involve any persistence of custody of Protected Health Information, such as some communications and videoconferencing technologies. Violations of HIPAA rules can lead to penalties in the millions of dollars. In addition, regulations on mental health, and on Substance Use Disorders in particular, are very strict and must be considered in addition to HIPAA.
HHS has announced the relaxation of enforcement pertaining to the use of teleconferencing technologies to provide remote medical services, allowing the use of such services to expand quickly, but limits on "public-facing" conferencing technologies remain. Providers need to adopt the necessary technologies without fear of HIPAA violation enforcement actions during the COVID-19 Emergency and must understand the limits of what is permitted in order to best serve patients and their families.
During the COVID-19 health emergency, business-grade teleconferencing technologies have stepped in to fill the gap in Telemedicine services. HHS has recognized that such services, even while not necessarily meeting the letter of HIPAA regulations, can be used in a secure and reasonable way during the emergency, and has provided guidance to that effect.
Commonly-used applications like FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom, that are not public-facing in their operation, may be used, but public-facing apps such as FaceTime Live or a chat room in Slack are not appropriate. This session will explain the difference between public- and non-public-facing services, what should be done in using the permitted services, and what must be done once the emergency is over and the relaxation of enforcement ends. Issues of Physical Security for staff and their computing devices will be discussed, as well as requirements for the proper consideration of technical security and encryption for portable devices. The use of Risk Analysis as a tool to assist in the secure, compliant implementation of communication technology will be presented.
This session will discuss the issues surrounding the use of various communication technologies under HIPAA controls, and the recent guidance and declarations from HHS about HIPAA and the response to COVID-19.
Why you should Attend: With the current health emergency and limitations on face-to-face contact in providing services to patients, remote working has been instituted wherever it reasonably can, and the time to implementation of new communication services to meet these needs leaves no room for the usual processes of approval and adoption that health care is used to.
In order to facilitate the delivery of services and necessary communications during the emergency, the US Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance relaxing some HIPAA requirements pertaining to teleconferencing tools and reiterating HIPAA allowances for communication with family and friends of patients. But it is still necessary to observe the requirements for Privacy and Security of patient information, particularly when sensitive information, such as mental health, is discussed. And any implementation of new technology must be accompanied by an evaluation of the risks and mitigation of security issues.
Inadequate consideration of new technology can lead to significant penalties in the event of breaches of protected health information or Substance Use Disorder information.
Areas Covered in the Session: