HIPAA and Audio-Only Telehealth
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) put clarity recently on how the HIPAA Security Rule applies to telephone technologies. In the case of telephone lines that are traditional landlines, the rule does not apply. But it does apply to mobile technologies that utilize electronic media such as WIFI.
What is Audio-Only?
In telehealth, we assume that all sessions are conducted over a computer screen with a video. However, some patients lack the option for a visual meeting, and can only attend a remote session with their healthcare practitioner by using their telephone. This may be a result of financial or linguistic limitations, or perhaps limited internet access including no broadband or cell coverage in their area. By offering audio-only telehealth, healthcare providers can offer options to individuals who are within the confines of those circumstances.
Audio-only telehealth was addressed by HHS with this recent guideline as a direct response to the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government (E.O. 14058). It will provide guidance for individuals that do not have access to audio-video options and “improve public confidence that covered entities are protecting the privacy and security of their health information”. It should not come as a surprise that with the onset of the pandemic, the number of telehealth options and occurrences increased significantly.
The OCR issued the Telehealth Notification in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). This established leniency when enforcing HIPAA Rules to health care providers that were operating in good faith when providing care during the PHE. Details regarding the announcement can be found here.
As this news shows, maintaining HIPAA compliance and a strong cybersecurity posture is an ongoing effort and business within your healthcare business. If you have questions or need assistance establishing a strong program, we can help!
HIPAA Secure Now is here to provide your needed Healthcare Security Programs and Compliance Services – reach out to us TODAY!