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Telemedicine & HIPAA Responsibilities

What is telemedicine? How does it impact HIPAA regulations?

Modern technological advancements continue to transform the way we do just about everything today. From work to play, our digital connection has broken down geographical barriers and made continual innovation possible.

In an industry as highly regulated as healthcare, these innovations are being leveraged to change how patients interact with doctors and advance treatment and care for all. 

One of the emerging technologies in the space – telemedicine – is on a very basic level, the use of video conferencing and real time communications solutions for interactions between patients and doctors.

While there has already been a number of benefits shown – from treating those typically underserved or remote areas with limited access to care, to significant cost savings, there are still regulations that the industry must follow when utilizing this advanced capability.

Perhaps the most profound is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) which was put in place to provide a safeguard for people’s medical information. It includes rules on data privacy and other stringent security provisions that any provider accessing or using sensitive medical documentation must comply with.

For medical offices and healthcare facilities, the demand to adopt telemedicine is great today. In order to take advantage of the technology though and to help patients feel comfortable with using the new mode of communication, it’s important to understand these rules. Especially those sections that apply to electronic communications. This includes using fully encrypted data transmission and peer-to-peer secure network connections among other factors.

Not only are the facilities themselves responsible for maintaining privacy, but also the businesses they work with who may have access to sensitive information, such as accountants, or waste disposal companies, must also comply.

For the medical waste hauler, that might be disposing of medical waste like specimen cups, IV bags and other blood collection vessels that have personal information on them.

Document destruction and paper shredding companies must also comply as they’re transporting things like hard drives for destruction or shredding documents that contain protected patient data and must be shredded for compliance. Working with a company that understands and can educate you on compliance with HIPAA and other regulations while also helping you to maintain your regular waste removal practices is important.

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