The message is short and sweet: establish clear policies and procedures
How do you practice medicine? Are you part of a private practice? A hospital? A community clinic? Maybe an ACO?
Wherever, or however you practice medicine – having a coherent set of internal and external policies and procedures regarding patient privacy is key. And there’s no one-size fits-all solution.
Chances are highly likely, if you’re part of a larger institution, there are already clearly defined policies and procedures that you should be following. What kind of policies are we talking about – and what sorts of problems arise when there aren’t any in place?
Let’s take the example of photos.
With the smartphones 80% of doctors now have in their back pockets – their camera rolls are filled with pictures from not only their personal (their son’s 4th birthday), but professional lives (a post-op knee healing). This means private, patient information can be regularly captured on an unsecured phone! What does HIPAA have to say about this?
While HIPAA does not explicitly say that photos should not be taken, it does say that any photo that is identifiable must be treated as a patient’s confidential information, and securely stored and communicated. That’s exactly why policies and procedures are needed at institutions – because HIPAA can be vague, unclear and confusing to clinicians. Having privacy and security rules in place makes it easy for clinicians to know what they can or cannot do.
The solution for medical institutions big and small: keep updating overall privacy and security programs as new threats and technologies emerge. For example, an institution could prohibit the unauthorized use of camera phones, but still allow flexibility for properly secured cameras using approved applications. Furthermore, if picture taking is permitted in some areas but not in others, the restrictions should be clearly posted.
Next week, we will discuss why education to both clinicians and patients about the importance of patient privacy and security – is a key to encourage communication between patients, doctors, and all healthcare personnel.
To read more on the topic of of photos and HIPAA: http://www.fortherecordmag.com/archives/060710p10.shtml
#HIPAA #Photography #Photos #HealthSecurity #Privacy