Interpreting Privileged Communication in Healthcare
Patient data and conversations are protected as privileged communications. In this article, you can learn more about what privileged healthcare communications include and how they are protected. You can also learn about VoIP, CCaaS, and healthcare.
What is Privileged Communication in Healthcare?
Privileged communication in healthcare refers to communications that include private patient information that is protected by federal, state, and local laws in the US and in other countries. Because of the sensitive nature of patient data, the law protects these communications and requires that healthcare organization take reasonable effort to protect privileged communication. These conversations can't be revealed to outside parties without specific measures taken to protect the information—and even then, patient data can only be shared under very special circumstances.
The law carefully restricts privileged communications, so any type of communications used must also follow and pay attention to these regulations. In other words, communications services must be compliant with these rules if they transmit health information. Healthcare is an industry where patient information is closely protected and heavily regulated.
As such, communications software must be compliant in order for healthcare organizations to use it.
How Does Privileged Communication in Healthcare Work?
Privileged communication in healthcare must, generally speaking, follow these best practices and guidelines in order to protect patient privacy and information security:
- Reasonable protection: Healthcare organizations must take reasonable steps to provide physical and digital security for patient information. Privileged conversations should occur out of earshot of people who aren't involved.
- Need-to-know only: Only personnel who really need access to patient information should get it. If someone doesn't need to know, then they shouldn't access the data. People who use the data in their jobs are required to sign contracts with the healthcare institution. Reasonable measures are taken to prevent everyone else from viewing, hearing, or finding the data.
- Disguising information: If data is released to researchers or for other purposes, it should be de-identified so people can't identify individuals. For instance, names should be removed and only necessary data be revealed in a table—not patients' full records.
- Privacy practices disclosures: Healthcare organizations should provide disclosures that detail how, when, and why patient information is collected and used. Patients should be asked for consent to disclose information to third parties before that information is provided.
- Secure communications: Communications systems must meet security standards and be reasonably protected from hacking, unauthorized access, and eavesdropping.
There may be other requirements, too. If your business or healthcare organization wants to be completely compliant, be sure to do your own research and find the laws that apply in your country and local area. You may want to ask an attorney or healthcare compliance professional for personalized advice. Doing your own due diligence is essential with a topic as important as healthcare communications compliance. This is something you definitely don't want to leave to chance.
How Does Privileged Communication in Healthcare Relate to CCaaS?
Communications systems such as CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) must also follow privileged communications regulations if they handle healthcare communications.
This impacts many different call centers, such as:
- Doctors' offices: Within a doctor's practice, the front desk may call patients to schedule appointments or share information. Many of these teams use CCaaS.
- Health insurance: Many insurance companies have call centers and answer questions patients ask about coverage.
- Hospital billing: Hospital billing offices may hear personal patient information when discussing billing issues with patients.
Many different offices use communications that may contain privileged healthcare communications. Even if these conversations aren't covered explicitly by HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), it's still a good idea to protect health information if you receive, process or handle personal patient data. HIPAA outlines laws in the United States that protect patient privacy. If you're wondering how HIPAA might apply to you, consider checking with your attorney or with a compliance expert.
Getting Started with Privileged Communication in Healthcare
Privileged communications in healthcare are private patient information and conversations that are protected by the law. Communications systems, too, are governed by regulations protecting privileged information. Ask your CCaaS vendor if they can help you get the compliant communications system your business needs.
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