Lunch Out May Be Casual - But HIPAA Never Is

posted on Monday, September 28, 2020

As work environments have evolved, it’s not uncommon for professionals to spend a few hours working at a coffee shop or other comfortable environment with reliable Wifi. While it’s easier than ever to work outside of the home or office setting, that means it’s also easier than ever to accidentally violate HIPAA. Take, for example, a person who takes a few calls while dining out at a cafe for lunch. She mentions another person by name and confirms a birthday; an appointment is made. In another call, a birthday is confirmed, and a name is used, followed by a number of clinical questions, discussion of medications followed by some data entry. Although it may not appear like others might be listening, it’s human nature to do so. Be mindful of your environment and restrict conversations regarding patients to private places.

HIPAA requires us to keep patients' information secure and private. PHI is information that can be used alone or in combination with other information to identify an individual.  HIPAA breaches can and do occur — even over lunch and even outdoors.

How can you best teach your employees to avoid HIPAA scenarios just like these? Training. Training. Training. When training on HIPAA compliance, make it practical by tailoring the content to explain what HIPAA compliance looks like in the day-to-day work environment of your practice.

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