The Laws and Best Practices of Patient Messaging
Patient massaging has helped health care workers remind their patients of upcoming appointments. This has saved them money as well as providing their patients with the means of not wasting it. Often, no show fees are less than that collected when a patient shows up. The patient does not want to spend their money by paying a no show fee when showing up to the appointment means using it for a service. HIPAA laws are stringent all across the country. The legality behind HIPPA laws often scares health professionals. They can be extremely strict. Not following them can result in a lawsuit. In some situations, the consequences can be as severe as the loss of license. To make the following HIPAA easier, it is essential to be aware of all the situations that can go against it.
The vast majority of medical offices practices patient reminders. Patients want to show up for their appointments. The appointments that are commonly missed are the ones that occur long after the appointment was scheduled. Some physicians charge the full amount of the appointment if it is missed. This is a lot more difficult if the physician takes health insurance. Lying that procedures were performed is illegal. Keeping up on the legality of patient messaging helps health professionals in a significant way. It’s essential to go through the legality when it comes to this:
The Security of Data
The number one reason this practice has been debated has to do with the security of data. Providing patients with emails and text messages is data that is intended for only them to see. Offices and patients can have their private information hacked. This is rare and typically does not result in a lawsuit when it happens. To protect patient privacy to the upmost degree, it is essential to not share private information about health through instant messaging. All emails and text messages should only include information about appointment reminders. It is legal to send private information about their health through text messaging; however, it isn’t wise when it comes to a legal standpoint.
With that said, there is minimal risk in responding to an email sent by the patient. It is protected legally as the patient is the one who requested the information. To make health information submitted by the patient that was not solicited, it is essential to communicate this information through a phone call. The patient’s voice can be identified. To make this practice even safer, the health care provider or receptionist should ask the patient when their birthday is to verify the patient.
The Patient’s Wishes
All patients should be notified about the clinic’s policy on sending instant messages. The patient has a legal right to reject this type of practice. It is best to inform the patient to protect the office legally. Most patients agree to this practice. The patient does not wish to miss the appointment. This often puts them at the back of the line again.
Legally, a health care professional does not have to remind the patient of an upcoming appointment in any way; however, they do have to contact the patient with information if there is anything wrong with their health. Some prefer not to send out emails. Sending out reminder through services such as Relatient : appointment reminder system is exceptionally cheap and wise, this is an automated systems that take care of the task and make sure that clinics are legally compliant with the laws.
Some physicians have set up online portals for their patients, this has allowed them to put up patient reminders and test results, and this practice has helped patients get information easily. These portals are password protected. They can be hacked, but it is easier to keep information private as they are password protected.
It is best to set up these portals with account disabling after a certain amount of attempts. This makes the job of hackers a lot harder. They often try to guess passwords to gain access. Health professionals should allow a maximum of six attempts to get into the patient’s health records and reminders.
Technology is not perfect. Some systems may not respond to the changed appointment time. It is the best practice of the office to make sure the system has gotten the appointment change. While there is nothing that can happen legally, if the wrong appointment time is sent out, it can result in a consequence of the patient not remembering the time. Patients are more likely not to remember the time if it is a recurring appointment change. Typically, psychiatric clinics work through recurring appointments. These offices should pay special attention to these errors.
An office can protect itself legally by using a HIPAA approved service like Relatient. In the same way that systems like Skyping patients have to be approved, any sort of system that deals with patient information have to be approved as well. All offices that deal with medical information have to be compliant. A pharmacy needs to use a HIPPA approved system when providing patients with information about the prescription reminder.
The Bottom Line
Sending information to patients with a reminder system is legal and safe. It is best to be compliant when it comes to the legality behind this practice. Those who comply with these practices often see better patient appointment keeping and protect themselves legally. It is a serious matter when medical offices fail to comply with HIPPA. Few things are protected as much as patient privacy; however, this practice is legal and offers benefits to both the patient and the office.