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Course Description

E-mail has long been a staple of people’s lives, but as we move into the new digital age, texting is often the preferred, or sometimes the best way of communicating. Doctors and medical offices are finding that texting is far more flexible, convenient, and effective than paging, and patients want to be able to use short message texting for handling of appointments, updates, and the like, where even e-mail or the telephone would seem inconvenient. Communicating with patients’ cell phones via texting or voice call for purposes of payment and even for providing healthcare information requires consent, and using texting for official purposes still remains outside the bounds of physician orders. These issues must be considered when evaluating the use of texting and e-mail for all kinds of communications.

In order to integrate the use of e-mail and texting into your communications, it is essential to perform the proper steps in an information security compliance process to evaluate and address the risks of using the technology. This session will describe the information security compliance process, how it works, and how it can help you decide how to integrate e-mail and texting into your organization in a compliant way. The process, including the use of information security risk analysis, will be explained, and the policies needed to support the process will be described.

The stakes are high – any improper exposure of PHI against the rules may result in an official breach that must be reported to the individual and to the US Department of Health and Human Services, at great cost and with the potential to bring fines and other enforcement actions if a violation of rules is involved.

In addition to HIPAA, there are impacts of the Telecommunications Protection Act (TCPA) that limit the use of cell phones for payment and healthcare purposes, and there have been recent actions by The Joint Commission to approve and then withdraw approval of using secure texting for physician orders.

The session will discuss the requirements, the risks, and the issues of the increasing use of e-mail and texting for healthcare communications and provide a road map for how to use them safely and effectively, to increase the quality of health care and patient satisfaction. The various solutions available for managing these complex issues will be discussed.

Why Should You Attend:

Communications in healthcare offices is more complex than ever. The use of texting and plain e-mail is an issue of current interest as staff adopt the technologies they are already used to, for use in the healthcare setting, whether you know it or like it or not. Proper evaluation and management of risks is on the hot list for audits and enforcement, and that includes considering communications appropriately for business purposes that may or may not contain Protected Health Information. Violations are subject to enforcement that can include multi-million dollar fines and years-long corrective action plans.

With the advent of portable devices and increased uses of e-mail and texting, and with increases in audits and enforcement actions following breaches, now is the time to ensure your organization is in compliance with the regulations and meeting the e-mail and texting communication needs and desires of its providers, staff, and patients. You need the proper privacy protections for health information, including documented policies and procedures on which your staff has been trained, as well as documentation of any actions taken pursuant to those policies and procedures.

It is essential to understand the different kinds of communications that might take place using texting and e-mail and how they have different privacy and security requirements and implications.

Learning Objective:

At the conclusion of the session, participants will be able to:

1. Understand the rules surrounding provider and patient communications and access of information under
2. Know how to explain the risks of insecure communications to patients and among staff.
3. Manage and audit the use of insecure communications made at the request of patients.
4. Know when secure communications are required and what must be done to secure communications and devices.

Area Covered In The Session:

• Learn what are the risks of using e-mail and texting, what can go wrong, and what can result when it does.
• Find out about HIPAA requirements for access and patient preferences, as well as the requirements to protect PHI.
• Learn how to use an information security management process to evaluate risks and make decisions about how best
to protect PHI and meet patient needs and desires.
• Find out about limitations on the use of messages and calls to cell phones under TCPA.
• Discover how The Joint Commission decided to allow and then withdraw allowing the use of texting for physician
• Find out what policies and procedures you should have in place for dealing with e-mail and texting, as well as
any new technology.
• Learn about the training and education that must take place to ensure your staff uses e-mail and texting properly
and does not risk exposure of PHI.
• Find out the steps that must be followed in the event of a breach of PHI.
• Learn about how the HIPAA audit and enforcement activities are now being increased and what you need to
do to survive a HIPAA audit.

Target Audience:

• Compliance director
• Privacy Officer
• Security Officer
• Information Systems Manager
• HIPAA Officer
• Chief Information Officer
• Health Information Manager
• Healthcare Counsel/lawyer
• Office Manager
• Contracts Manager

Our Speaker Profile:

Jim Sheldon-Dean is the founder and director of compliance services at Lewis Creek Systems, LLC, a Vermont-based consulting firm founded in 1982, providing information privacy and security regulatory compliance services to a wide variety of health care entities. He is a frequent speaker regarding HIPAA, including speaking engagements at numerous regional and national healthcare association conferences and conventions and the annual NIST/OCR HIPAA Security Conference. Sheldon-Dean has more than 17 years of experience specializing in HIPAA compliance, more than 35 years of experience in policy analysis and implementation, business process analysis, information systems and software development, and eight years of experience doing hands-on medical work as a Vermont certified volunteer emergency medical technician. Sheldon-Dean received his B.S. degree, summa cum laude, from the University of Vermont and his master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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