How Have HIPAA Compliant Medical Forms Affected Telehealth Security?

By  //  April 21, 2023

People’s health records and data get regulated by different federal laws. The conditions of regulation vary regarding information sources and the organization’s entrusted with the data.

The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a law that outlines the data protection standards that ensure that confidential patient information remains secure. It prevents the spreading of people’s data records without their consent.

The health and human services department implemented the HIPAA privacy rules to protect different subsets of client information.

Why Should Telehealth Services Use HIPAA Compliant Data Collection Techniques?

Cybersecurity threats are growing with the increasing adoption of digital services across all industries. This is aligned with the growth of electronic record keeping and communication via cloud services.

HIPAA compliance promotes data confidentiality for all private health information that is required to run telehealth services. This includes physical (paper), electronic, and oral patient data security.

Telehealth services include providing healthcare services and managing patient’s health remotely. This calls for extra data security protocols to help protect the institution from expensive data breaches and penalties for data protection violations.

The growing cyber-landscape demands that sensitive institutions like telehealth service providers adhere to the HIPAA privacy and security rules to minimize client data vulnerabilities and breaches. The success of this relies upon the effective use of HIPAA compliant forms for data collection.

What are the benefits of HIPAA Compliance in Telehealth Service Provision?

Keeping up with HIPAA compliance is a costly investment that requires significant efforts to succeed. However, it has significant benefits for both the patients and associated covered entities.

How does HIPAA compliance benefit patients?

  • It provides more individual control regarding access and usage of health records
  • Gives clients the informed capacity to make decisions that affect private health information
  • Protects patients from illegal distribution of their information
  • Ensures accountability for data protection violations

How does HIPAA compliance benefit service providers?

  • Protects medical institutions from protected health information data compromises
  • Build customer trust and increases organizational confidence
  • Helps prevent devastating cyberattacks

How Does The HIPAA Privacy Rule Help With Data Security?

The HIPAA privacy regulations help establish the foundation and guidelines for managing protected health information (PHI) by medical service providers and institutions (a.k.a Covered Entities).

The HIPAA privacy rule outlines the requirements for observing individual patient rights. It gives health providers standard procedures for patient data management, including storage and distribution.

The primary goal for HIPAA privacy rules is to ensure that individual patient information remains secure at all times. This also ensures the provision of high quality health services without disrupting the smooth flow of information.

It helps health organizations protect private information belonging to the public.

What Exactly are Covered Entities?

Covered entities include all the organizations that process and handle sensitive information belonging to the clients such as:

Healthcare Services: All health practitioners, regardless of their capacity, must observe HIPAA regulations. As long as they send and receive client information during their service provision processes

The processes include:

  • Customer Claims
  • Customer eligibility requests
  • KYC processes
  • Service authorization requests, and every other transaction that falls under the jurisdiction of HIPAA privacy rules.

Medical Health Plans such as:

  • Dental care
  • Optical service providers
  • drug prescription insurance

Health Maintenance Services:

  • Medicare
  • Government-sponsored health plans 
  • Medicare insurance
  • Long-term medicare insurance
  • Group health plans facilitated by employers

Multiemployer Plans (health): With the exception of group health plans that cover less than fifty individuals and are administered by the employer.

Health Service Clearing Houses: Including organizations that process non-standard information transmitted by other entities. Typically, medical service clearing houses receive individually identifiable medical records from health institutions that they work with (associates).

Business Associates of Covered Entities: Every business that is not part of the workforce of a covered entity, but uses or processes individual protected health information to provide auxiliary services for a covered entity.

The services include:

  • Processing client claims
  • Analyzing client data
  • Reviewing client service utilization
  • Client billing

What are the HIPAA Conditions for Permitted Data Use and Disclosure?

The privacy law allows covered entities to use and share protected health information without the owner’s consent. However, it is not a standard requirement. The organization can get informal permission by asking the client outright. Including all situations where the client has the option of rejecting the processing of their private data.

The situations that permit such disclosure include:

  • Disclosing the data transfer requirement to the individual if their information is required for access.
  • Treatment billing requirements
  • Compilation of limited data cohorts for research and public health operations.

What Data Usage Activities Permit Institutional Use of Private Data Without Individual Consent?

Data usage activities that support public interests don’t require the organization to get authorization from the individual include:

  1. When the law asks for it (under special conditions like criminal investigations).
  2. Public health actions
  3. Victim’s support (people subjected to domestic violence)
  4. Oversight activities for Health services
  5. Legal proceedings (judicial and administrative)
  6. Identification of individuals
  7. Organ donations
  8. Official research
  9. Health, safety, and threat management
  10. Government requirements
  11. Compensation of workers

How Does The HIPAA Security Rule Promote Record Management?

The HIPAA privacy rule focuses on safeguarding protected health information (PHI). The HIPAA security rule protects a subset of client information created by the privacy regulations for covered entities. This includes all the individually identifiable data created, stored, distributed and managed by covered entities.

The security rule does not really cover information that is shared orally or written physically. That depends on the ethical capabilities of the individuals that come into contact with that data.

How Do Covered Entities Ensure HIPAA Security Compliance?

Not complying with HIPAA requirements will definitely attract penalties (monetary, criminal, or civil). Therefore, covered entities should focus on promoting the ethical capacity of their personnel to ensure safe data management and disclosure.

Covered entities should:

  • Propagate patient data confidentiality, availability, and integrity throughout
  • Ensure high security and practice agile threat prediction and management
  • Prevent unauthorized data disclosure and usage
  • Ensure workforce compliance certification

What Does Using HIPAA compliant Data Collection Techniques Mean for Telehealth?

Cyberspace has been a growing victim of data theft and other digital attacks for over two decades. Healthcare services are a high target for data breaches because they handle sensitive data for a majority of the populations across the world. This was seen more clearly during the pandemic. The extent of vulnerability in the healthcare sector was revealed with a growth in hacking and other data theft incidents.

There has been an influx of ransomware attacks across different industries, more so in the health industry. This prompted the HHS to issue regulations that guide how health institutions, especially telehealth service providers, collect, keep, and transmit customer’s health records.

For instance, HHS exposed a ransomware called Hive that was going around targeting medical service providers in 2022.

HHS encouraged healthcare service providers, private and public, to strengthen their cybersecurity practices and ensure that their data records are never compromised. Including implementation of breach notifications.

The HHS and OCR have outlined the guidelines, which they keep updated, on how medical services such as telehealth can handle private health information and maintain HIPAA compliance standards. Telehealth services involve a lot of remote communication and data transfers between the organization and individual clients. This comes with extra risks and exposure to compromise. Using communication platforms that are not compliant with HIPAA rules can be burdensome to both customers and service providers.

However, the OCR notified the public that it would exempt some non-HIPAA-Compliant applications like Google Hangouts, Zoom, Facetime, Facebook Messenger, and Skype, amongst others. Also, the exemption of some non-covered entities demands that healthcare service providers impose good faith and better judgment as they integrate telehealth technologies.

Working with good judgment allows musical service providers to provide the best remote healthcare and better customer experience without worrying about sanctions for HIPAA violations.

How Telehealth Providers Can Ensure Effective Data Compliance?

Telehealth service providers can ensure that they maintain HIPAA compliant operations by following the following steps:

  1. Outlining procedures that follow HIPAA compliance standards: Implement written policies that specify how individuals should conduct themselves regarding the operation of the business. These guidelines should apply to all staff and Include:
  • Ethical conduct
  • Corporate compliance
  • Corrective actions
  • Training
  • Notification and acknowledgement
  • Disaster recovery 
  1. Establishing a compliance commission to implement policies and ensure that everyone adheres to the rules. Not having someone to oversee compliance leaves the organization at risk for devastating violations and penalties.
  2. Train and educate your staff regularly. Everyone must be made aware of compliance standards. Implement a training program to sensitize your people about their role in observing standard compliance procedures.

A training program should consider:

  1. Establish proper lines of communication: Ensure that everyone in your organization has effective means of communication and they understand standard querying and reporting processes. Build a culture that promotes transparency.
  2. Monitor and auditing organizations internally: Compliance requirements evolve over time and service providers should keep up with rising demands to be safe.
  3. Enforcement using publicized disciplinary rules: Help people understand the dangers of compliance-misconduct, including the penalties for non-compliant violations.
  4. Prompt responses to red flags: Promote quick and precise corrective action to mitigate the damage and limit the extent of all problems. Telehealth organizations should outline and implement corrective action procedures for violation management.