Tag Archives: HIPAA

How to Use HIPAA to Obtain Timely Medical Records

Are you hip to HIPAA?

August 27, 2018 by 

Members of the claims management team obtain medical records on a frequent basis when investigating workers’ compensation claims. It is important they do this promptly given the many constraints of workers’ compensation laws. Given the nature of these requests, state and federal privacy laws come into play. Failure to understand these laws and their requirements can lead to delay and problems down the road. Now is the time to better understand these laws and how to incorporate them into your team’s best practices.

It All Starts with HIPAA

HIPAA logo for article, How to Use HIPAA to Obtain Timely Medical RecordsThe Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) serves as the basis for healthcare privacy and the dissemination of medical records in the United States. The law was enacted in 1996 to address the many issues medical providers were facing and to protect the privacy of all individuals. In essence, it serves as the baseline for standards enacted at the state level for all covered entities.

Understanding the Basics of HIPAA

To understand the law, it is important to understand when it applies and whom it protects. HIPAA applies to all “covered entities,” which are defined under 45 C.F.R. §160.103, as:

Health care providers who transmit “protected health information;”

Entities that process personal health information (healthcare clearinghouses);

Health plans such as Group Health Plans; and

Any business partner of a “covered entity.”

It is also important to note that the federal law applies to “protected health information,” otherwise known as PHI. This is information defined under 45 C.F.R. §164.501, which is individually identifiable health information maintained or transmitted in any form, whether electronically, on paper or orally.

Exceptions to HIPAA in Work Comp

Employees at healthcare providers are required to know and understand HIPAA and have a duty to protect a patient’s PHI. Continue reading How to Use HIPAA to Obtain Timely Medical Records

Is Apple’s iMessage HIPAA Compliant?

[Editors note: HIPAA compliance used to be almost the exclusive concern of medical practices and healthcare professional, but the more we digitally zing medical records and patient information around, the more we leave ourselves open to HIPAA violations and their associated fines.]

iMessage text balloon for atricle, Is iMessage HIPAA compliant?iMessage is a go-to technology for Apple users in the medical field because it so easily integrates into pre-existing office infrastructure. Using iMessage for office communication can facilitate quick conversations among office staff–but when it comes to sending and receiving patient data, the question of whether or not iMessage is HIPAA compliant needs to be taken into account.

Some third party apps and Apple Watch health monitoring functions are built to be HIPAA compliant.  However, Apple has yet to address HIPAA compliance on its own iMessage platform. Third party HIPAA compliant messaging and data storage apps have become increasingly popular with iPhone and Mac users in the health care field, but Apple’s iMessage messaging service remains insecure and non-compliant.

HIPAA privacy and security regulation mandates that data transmission of protected health information must be fully secure. Protected health information (PHI) is any demographic information that can be used to identify a patient, including name, address, date of birth, social security number, or full facial photographs, among others.

iMessage uses end-to-end encryption, which means that only the sender and intended recipient can view the contents of each message. But what makes iMessage different than other HIPAA compliant messaging services, is that it keeps a cached version of each iMessage sent on its servers. These cached messages can be accessed either by warrant or by a potential hacker in the event of a data breach.

Although critics in the healthcare IT industry have spoken out against Apple’s practice in this regard, the company has yet to announce a change to this policy. Sending PHI over iMessage remains a breach of HIPAA regulation–putting your practice at risk of a data breach and accompanying HIPAA fine.


Microsoft Adds Health Privacy Features to Office 2016

October 12, 2015 | Tom Sullivan – Executive Editor, HIMSS Media

graphic with all the app icons for Microsoft Office 2016When Microsoft unwrapped the latest version of its Office suite, the company injected the software with data privacy and security features specifically designed for healthcare customers.

Practice managers and IT staff, particularly existing users of Microsoft’s apps, might want to know about these.

Here are three of those:

1. PHI recognition: Outlook can now recognize protected health information in an attachment and warn the user before sending to avoid the common mishap of PHI landing in the inbox of someone who should not receive it. And different permissions can be set to stop some users from even sending PHI at all.

2. Smart Attachments: This feature gives users the option of sending a link in lieu of heavy documents that consume a lot of memory. The reason that matters: When clinicians send a link via OneDrive for Business, the security mechanism authenticates the user and Exchange can track whether a recipient even clicked on that link – which could help account for what happens should data be sent to unintended recipients.

3. Encryption, single sign-on and authentication: This is kind of a threefer, admittedly. They are connected enough to group together. In addition to Office, Microsoft injected encryption into Office 365 services, so now both documents and emails are encrypted, while Windows Hello serves as a single sign-on capability and Windows Passport is now being used by third-party apps, such as Allscripts EMR, for facial recognition.

Office 2016 comes on the heels of Windows 10, which also brought new features for healthcare.

Continue reading Microsoft Adds Health Privacy Features to Office 2016

Heat Illness Training is Front Burner in CA

A heat index chart

Heat Illness Prevention in Agriculture Gets Focus in California

Cal/OSHA, the Nisei Farmers League, and 23 other agricultural organizations are teaming up for this years “Heat Illness Prevention in Agriculture” training events.
The free sessions began recently in Fresno, Calif., and will continue throughout the spring and summer at locations across the state. The goal is to reduce heat- related fatalities and gain a greater level of compliance in the agriculture community through training programs for growers, farm labor contractors, and supervisors.
The training will provide information about employers responsibilities under Californias Heat Illness Prevention Standard and will explain changes made to the regulation last August that are now in effect.
Cal/OSHA said its outreach, education, and enforcement have led to a measurable increase in the number of employers who are complying with the regulations, up from 35 percent in 2006, to 76 percent in 2010. As a result, heat- related deaths have declined from 12 in 2005 to two last year.
John Duncan, director of the Department of Industrial Relations, which oversees Cal/OSHA, said the heat illness prevention outreach effort is one of the most successful safety education efforts in Cal/OSHAs history.
It is clear that our heat illness training and enforcement efforts are saving lives and resulting in increased compliance among employers,” Duncan said. “Our efforts thus far have laid the groundwork to carry this training initiative forward and to expand this type of collaboration into other industries. These efforts will continue until we reach everyone who works out in the fields, on construction sites, anywhere out in the elements.”
Cal/OSHA and its partners in agriculture conducted more than two dozen heat illness prevention training seminars in California last year. Some 1,600 agriculture employers and supervisors attended the training events that are held in both English and Spanish. Those employers passed the information on to an estimated 400,000 workers.
Every year since we have been offering this training, we find more farm supervisors and labor contractors complying with heat illness regulations. More employers are giving the provision to workers of water, shade, and training the full attention it needs,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “There is no doubt this outreach effort is having a positive impact, but we still have work to do in order to reach our goal of making worker safety and health have the prominence in workplace culture that we all want to see.”
In 2005, California became the first state to develop a safety and health regulation to protect workers from heat illness.

Electronic Billing Regs Approved In California

graphic of an email stamp
Faster, greener and saves $$$!

California’s Office Of Administrative Law Approves
Electronic And Standardized Medical Treatment Billing Regs

The Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) has adopted new regulations for standardized paper billing forms and electronic billing standards. The final regulations were approved by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) and filed with the secretary of state on April 18, 2011. Approval of this rulemaking marks the completion of another set of regulations that is part of DWC’s 12-point plan to control medical costs in California’s workers’ compensation system by streamlining and relieving administrative burdens. “California will now be one of the first states in the country to provide for e-billing in workers’ compensation,” said DWC Chief Counsel Destie Overpeck. “These regulations encourage both workers’ comp insurers and medical providers to transition to e-billing, which means providers will get paid faster and more paper will be eliminated from the system.”

The  new regulations will streamline paper billing by standardizing billing forms and making it easier to communicate through the use of standardized bill review messages. Implementation of the electronic billing rules will improve efficiency of the billing and remittance process and produce quicker bill payment. By statute, claims administrators are required to accept electronic bills and may develop their own capacity to accept electronic bills or may contract with a vendor to perform the function. Participation in electronic billing is optional for medical providers.

Provisions relating to paper billing become effective on Oct. 15, 2011 and provisions relating to electronic billing become effective Oct. 18, 2012 in order to allow time for implementation. The regulations satisfy Labor Code section 4603.4 requirements and amend Title 8, California Code of Regulations section 9792.5, and adopt new sections 9792.5.0, 9792.5.1, 9792.5.2, and 9792.5.3.

The approved regulations, including the “Medical Billing and Payment Guide 2011” and the “Electronic Medical Billing and Payment Companion Guide 2012,” as filed with the secretary of state are now available. Also available at the DWC Web site are the final statement of reasons for the rulemaking, a summary of public comments made during the rulemaking and the division’s responses to those comments.

OSHA Seeks Employer Input On Adding ‘Ergonomics’ Column To Injury/Illness Logs

man in the ultimate ergonomic computer chair
Can I get one of these at Office Max?

Washington, DC (CompNewsNetwork) – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is seeking input from the business community on its proposal to add a column for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) on employer injury and illness logs, known as the form 300 log.OSHA is holding three teleconferences in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy to gather small business input on the proposal.

The proposal would require employers already mandated to keep injury and illness records to add the step of checking a column when recording work-related musculoskeletal disorders, also commonly known as ergonomic injuries.

Interested businesses that wish to participate in one of the teleconferences should contact Regina Powers at powers.regina@dol.gov by April 4 and indicate the teleconference in which they wish to participate.

Proposed Rule

The proposed rule covers only MSDs that employers already are required to record under the longstanding OSHA rule on recordkeeping.

Before 2001, OSHA’s injury and illness logs contained a column for repetitive trauma disorders that included hearing loss and many kinds of MSDs. In 2001, OSHA proposed separating hearing loss and MSDs into two columns, but the MSD column was deleted in 2003 before the provision went into effect. OSHA’s proposal would restore the MSD column to the Form 300.

Virtual Health Care May Be Better Than In-Office Visits

Doctor's hand reaching out of computer holding a stethoscopeA five-year study of HIV patients found a telehealth system, including a virtual pharmacy and community forums, to be as effective as in-office visits to the doctor. The study could mean increased virtual health care and cheaper medical costs around the world, especially for high-maintenance chronic illnesses such as HIV.

From autonomous robotic surgeries to advanced computerized diagnoses, many recent technological breakthroughs have benefited the medical industry and the patients it serves. Now, results from a five-year study have revealed an exciting conclusion: Virtual check-ups can be just as effective as, if not more than, in-office visits to the doctor.

In the study, a group of Barcelona-based physicians successfully treated 200 HIV patients via an online home care system called “Virtual Hospital.” The technology covers all aspects of managing the health of chronic HIV-infected patients, who require frequent and careful care. This month, PLoS One published the results, which found telehealth to be as effective as in-office visits.

Continue reading Virtual Health Care May Be Better Than In-Office Visits

Grin and Bear It?


green bear with marijuana leaf t-shirt
"Hey Boo Boo, I need a pic-a-nik basket!"

The Montana Supreme Court has thrown its backing behind a Workers Compensation Court ruling that a man who was mauled while feeding the bears at a tourist attraction is eligible for workers comp coverage.

According to the Associated Press, Brock Hopkins filed a claim with the Uninsured Employers Fund, which denied it due to the fact Hopkins had smoked marijuana prior to entering a bear enclosure at Great Bear Adventures near West Glacier on Nov. 2, 2007.
Park owner Russell Kilpatrick claimed that Hopkins was a volunteer and fed the bears after Kilpatrick informed him not to.

The Workers Compensation Court
stated Hopkins was an employee and claimed there was no evidence that impairment from smoking marijuana led to the mauling.

Patients and Clinicians Must Share Healthcare Decisions, Say Experts

Clinicians have an ethical imperative to share important decisions with patients, and patients have a right to be equal participants in their care, say a group of experts.

doctor with mother and young son
So draw me a picture

In December 2010, 58 people from 18 countries attended a Salzburg Global Seminar to consider the role patients can and should play in healthcare decisions. Today, they publish a statement urging patients and clinicians “to work together to be co-producers of health.”

It comes as the government in England finalises plans to give people more say and more choice over their care than ever before.

The experts argue that much of the care patients receive is based on the ability and readiness of individual clinicians to provide it, rather than on widely agreed standards of best practice or patients’ preferences for treatment.

Results from the 2010 Cancer Patient Experience Survey seem to support this view. It found significant variations in the choice and information patients are given, and their involvement in decisions about treatment.

The experts also say that clinicians are often slow to recognise the extent to which patients’ wish to be involved in understanding their health problems, in knowing the options available to them, and in making decisions that take account of their personal preferences.

As such they call on clinicians to stimulate a two-way flow of information with patients, to provide accurate information about treatment, to tailor information to individual patient needs and allow them sufficient time to consider their options. In turn, they urge patients to ask questions and speak up about their concerns, to recognise that they have a right to be equal participants in their care, and to seek and use high-quality health information.

They also call on policymakers to adopt policies that encourage shared decision making and to support the development of skills and tools for shared decision making.

One of the signatories, Professor Glyn Elwyn from Cardiff University, says that despite considerable interest in shared decision making, and clear evidence of benefit, implementation within the NHS “has proved difficult and slow.”

Angela Coulter from the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making agrees and points to recent evidence showing that most patients want choice, but that many clinicians remain ambivalent or antagonistic to the idea. She believes the government’s new commitment to shared decision making presents a challenge to entrenched attitudes and the need for big change in practice styles.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.


Daylight Savings Time May be Hazardous to Your Health

silhouette of man with clock
The semi-annual tradition of changing the clock an hour ahead and an hour back has been reported to result in a high incident of work-related illness.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports, “More than 1.5 billion men and women are exposed to the transitions involved in daylight saving time: turning clocks forward by an hour in the spring and backward by an hour in the autumn. These transitions can disrupt chronobiologic rhythms and influence the duration and quality of sleep, and the effect lasts for several days after the shifts.”
This may result in an increase of work-related accidents in the days following the time adjustment.
Republished with permission from Jon L. Gelman