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healthcare providers, medical practitioners, HIPAA Privacy and Security, HIPAA Security Guidelines, Telehealth Communication, healthcare workers, telehealth services, HIPAA regulatory requirements, HIPAA Compliant, MIPS reporting, QPP MIPS, MIPS 2020, QPP 2020, HIPAA medical billing, telehealth medicine

COVID-19: HIPAA Security and Privacy Guidelines Relaxed for Providers

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced relaxation in HIPAA rules for covered entities and business associates who participate in good faith in the COVID-19 testing site operation.

It doesn’t stop there, but HIPAA penalties won’t apply to covered healthcare providers for practicing telehealth medicine using third-party applications such as Skype or Facebook Messenger. OCR exercises its power to stall some of the HIPAA provisions, momentarily, in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth during the state of a national health emergency.

Provided we stand in the middle of an epidemic and our country is under attack, rightly so, such steps seem to be the only way out. Governor, Andrew Cuomo, of New York State, is a constant media personality during this crisis briefing us on developing stories every day of the week. He is a true patriot who is committed to taking his stand until the enemy backtracks to where it came from.

The fact of the matter is that OCR holds the right to exercise enforcement discretion, and they did so on April 9 in an immediate press release. It goes to show their determination to eradicate the novel coronavirus from the US, and, also speaks of their active role in the recovery process.

Director OCR, Roger Severino, narrates and I am paraphrasing it; It is time to empower medical practitioners to serve patients across the United States during this public health emergency period. We are concerned about the health of the vulnerable the most, including older Americans and persons with disabilities.

Why the Relaxation in HIPAA Rules?

First, the HIPAA rules were relaxed to provide immediate assistance to healthcare providers, including some large pharmaceuticals and their business associates that would like to participate in community-wide testing site operation. It is officially called the Community Based-Testing Site (CBTS) operation; moreover, it includes mobile, drive-through, and walk-up sites where they would conduct COVID-19 specimen collection or testing in abundance.

Second, telehealth products had to follow the HIPAA Privacy and Security Guidelines before COVID-19 was here. Now that this virus has spread all over the country, to stop it, the exception of extreme circumstances comes into play and brings flexibility to HIPAA rules.

What Products Are Safe for Telehealth Communication?

healthcare providers, medical practitioners, HIPAA Privacy and Security, HIPAA Security Guidelines, Telehealth Communication, healthcare workers, telehealth services, HIPAA regulatory requirements, HIPAA Compliant, MIPS reporting, QPP MIPS, MIPS 2020, QPP 2020, HIPAA medical billing, telehealth medicineProviders don’t have to worry about which products to use as long as they are not public-facing software applications. Products like Facebook Messenger, Skype, Apple FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or Zoom are good to go for care audio & video chats.

While the use of the above applications is allowed, some applications come under the public-facing criterion, apps including TikTok, Twitch, and Facebook Live.

Therefore, before dispensing care, use applications in the allowed category instead of those that aren’t.

As the nation is in dire need of healthcare workers, OCR exercises enforcement discretion for care to reach the farthest areas of the country in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth services. It means providers won’t face penalties in case of noncompliance with HIPAA regulatory requirements.

HIPAA Compliant Technology Vendors

Since malpractices in desperate times have their odd way to creep in, it is best to choose technology vendors who are HIPAA compliant and are willing to enter into a business associate agreement (BAA) with the provider. As a result, any audio or video communication that occurs through such vendors will not result in an intrusion or put PHI at risk.

The following list of vendors provide a haven for secure telehealth services; moreover, they are HIPAA compliant and willing to enter into a BAA with covered entities.

  • Skype for Business / Microsoft Teams
  • Updox
  • VSee
  • Zoom for Healthcare
  • me
  • Google G Suite Hangouts Meet
  • Cisco Webex Meetings/Webex Teams
  • Amazon Chime
  • GoToMeeting
  • Spruce Health Care Messenger

Now, that is the list of software for safe and complaint-friendly audio and video communication.

A word by OCR

OCR doesn’t endorse, recommend, or certify the above applications but simply suggests their use for guidance. It has not reviewed the BAAs that they have come up with. There may be other vendors out there who are HIPAA compliant and willing to enter into a BAA with a covered entity. The names above do not suggest any kind of endorsement or affiliation with the above-mentioned products.

P3 as a business associate comes under the obligation of HIPAA too; moreover, we are trying to help the healthcare heroes on the front line as best as we can by the use of HIPAA compliant communication channels. HIPAA medical billing is one of our principal services along with QPP MIPS reporting. As providers make their way out of the pandemic, we will support them on each twist or turn of their journey.

Please hit the follow button on Instagram for more insights: @p3healthcaresolutions

HIPAA , HIPAA security analysis, HIPAA security, HIPAA Requirements, HIPAA medical billing, HIPAA medical billing company, Health IT, COVID-19 , Coronavirus, Healthcare IT companies, Healthcare Under HIPAA, Healthcare providers Healthcare solutions, HER, EHR

4 Health IT Recommendations for Remote Healthcare Under HIPAA

Working from home is a new reality. The novel coronavirus has left us at home while it continues to affect the human race. It doesn’t differentiate between humans based on their race, wealth, color, sex, or religion; moreover, it treats the young and grownups alike. That is how ruthless it is.

In such overwhelming times, when healthcare workers face the challenge of a growing number of COVID-19 patients on one side, they are required to follow the rules of HIPAA remote care on the other. They are under obligation to meet HIPAA security and privacy requirements no matter how big or small their practice is. In fact, it is not something new to them in the best interest of Protected Health Information (PHI).

Therefore, we will know in today’s article that how physician practices, with the help of health IT, can address the HIPAA security risk analysis issue head-on, especially when it comes to remote care.

Under HIPAA, it is obligatory for hospitals and practices in the US to protect sensitive patient data from violators or from going public. The new norm of diagnosis and treatment coupled with the support of health IT ensure remote healthcare to fall in line with the rules of HIPAA.

Telemedicine moves forward with a bubble of protection to safeguard patient information. Let’s see some recommendations for technologists supervising remote care communication:

  1. Set Clear Instructions for Remote Use of Healthcare Devices

One thing that we should remember is that healthcare providers are not IT experts. While they know the importance to protect the confidentiality of patient data, they don’t always know how to achieve that stage. Besides, they are too busy with their patients to worry about the laws that govern remote healthcare access.

Here comes the role of the technologists of practices who have the responsibility to provide clear instructions on how to use devices or software securely.

When developing the guidelines, come up with step-by-step execution of the process that simply describes what to do. Too many options or vague advice lead to confusion instead of clarity. HIPAA security risk analysis of remote healthcare ensembles with the list of recommended tools and how providers may use them to provide care.

  1. Know HIPAA Requirements Before Suggesting Tools

For a technologist, to know the requirements of HIPAA are one of the essentials they cannot ignore. Since many healthcare practices now turn to new teleworking technologies facilitating video chats, data share, and follow-ups, it comes on you to explain to them which tools are allowed under the Health and Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Providers can only choose a selected bunch of tools that adhere to the HIPAA privacy and security guidelines to communicate. They are not at liberty to use just any tool that they find on the internet and download it for free. Hence, it is of utmost importance that the health IT experts handling your practice’s remote communication are aware of the provisions of HIPAA. Moreover, they must show the will to enter into an official contract as a business associate.

Zoom is an example of a tool that is allowed for healthcare professionals to see their patients. However, there is a specific version that is permissible under HIPAA. Licensed Specialized Zoom for Healthcare solution is the version that fulfills the requirements of HIPAA. Hence, business associates can carry out PHI transmission through Zoom’s specified version.

Also, the above version integrates with electronic health record (EHR) systems seamlessly.

  1. Supply Compliance-friendly Devices for Safety & Management

 When remote care is at play, the idea is to create a safe passage for patient-provider interaction. The healthcare IT teams have to supply healthcare workers with compliance-friendly correspondence devices because that is far less burdensome than manifesting security in each of the employee-owned devices. So even when they go home, they may use only a secure line of communication.

Preconfigured gadgets guarantee adherence to policies that govern PHI safety.

Additionally, for IT teams it is much easier to manage a system that they are familiar with; it is the same mobile device management system they work on at the office.

  1. Use of VPNs to Secure Online Connectivity

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are software applications that offer encryption of any data that travels through them. Health IT teams have a job to do; they must remember to equip devices in use of practitioners with enough security controls to counter unauthorized access.

Two networks need to be secured: providers’ home network and the Internet between the home and the practice.

Management of device configuration solves most of the problems, but it still leaves room for intruders to jump whenever they want.

Hence, suggested is the use of VPNs to ensure safe online connectivity. Any communication that happens between the office and home is secure. A VPN develops a secure encrypted tunnel across the communication channel from the practitioner’s device to the receiver’s end.

It further provides content filtering, firewall safety, and end-to-end encryption to home users just as it would for workers within a hospital or clinic.

With the above four recommendations, we conclude this article in the hope that it is sufficient information regarding telemedicine’s safety standards for health IT. If you want to hire services of professionals who can offer HIPAA security risk analysis to remote medical practices, please get in touch with P3 Healthcare Solutions. We are also a HIPAA medical billing company that takes extreme caution when it comes to protected health information.

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medical billing service, revenue cycle management process, medical billing company, medical billing outsourcing, RCM process, HIPAA medical billing

The ERAs and EFTs in Payment Posting for Medical Billing

As a medical billing service, it is our primary duty to look after the revenue cycle management process of physicians on board. We are on a mission to narrate billing obligations in a fashion that is fast and in the direct interest of clinicians. Some of our clients have recorded their detailed feedback on Clutch.co for any of you interested in reading client reviews. https://clutch.co/profile/p3-healthcare-solutions#reviews

The claimed and paid amount has to concur in an ideal state. It is the job of a medical billing company to comply in such matters that involve the speedy transfer of payments. Any hiccups in the billing process directly affect the practice besides tainting the reputation of the third-party billing vendor.

Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) and Electronic Remittance Advice (ERAs) are documents that discuss the amount billed and the payment received. They also contain information about any discrepancies in both the amounts. The third term EFT refers to Electronic Funds Transfer which is the modern way to address the payment process.

Medical Billing Company Supports ERAs in an Age of Automation

Physician practices can save much time and money if their EOBs turn into ERAs that are electronic documents. Think of the time it takes for a medical practice to deal with payment details manually. It involves a lot of fields to be manually addressed, dropping checks at the bank, and reconciling payments.

If payers can create digital documents like ERAs regularly, physicians won’t have to re-enter payments manually. The process of payment posting is crucial, and to make it easier, we’ll have to digitize EOBs right away.

Medical billing outsourcing requires accurate coding of claims in which there are no over coding and under coding errors. If EOBs reimburse amounts lesser than what is claimed in the bill, our company investigates so that the RCM process keeps on running smoothly.

Benefits of ERA

  • Once the system of automation is in place, posting payments doesn’t involve manual intervention at all
  • It enables faster payments because time is saved in the very instance
  • Makes way for improved and classic denial management

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFTs)

HIPAA medical billing says a lot about the medical billing service in line with the law and its provisions. Under HIPAA, EFT via the Automated Clearing House (ACH) is the only standardized way to move funds electronically. Hence, we have to take a note of that in every transaction we make on behalf of the physicians and specialty-specific doctors.

Just like the way employee checks are deposited, ACH EFT makes sure funds smoothly move between insurance companies and physicians.

Benefits of EFT

  • It is a payment mode that directly coordinates with ERAs
  • The staff members don’t have to be occupied, and there is less paper usage
  • The claims payments are deposited in a safe and secure manner
  • Saves time

21st Century After Effects of Electronic Cashflow

The healthcare industry brought into effect a new standard in the form of ANSI 835 for electronic insurance payments and reconciliation a few years ago. Both ERA and EFT are part of this act. Their role for each other is vital. When an ERA carries the details of the payment, EFT is the actual process through which the payment is made to their rightful owners upon adjudication of claims.

ERA merely forms a report by which benefits are explained. Both the technologies devise simplification of the payments to physicians while expediting the process in the spirit of better healthcare outcomes.

Learn more: 5 Medical Billing Tips to Help Orthopedics Earn More

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HIPAA Medical Billing Is More Important Than You Think

If you belong to the healthcare industry in any capacity be it as a physician, nurse, surgeon, pharmacist, or health IT specialist, you would know the importance of privacy protection and confidentiality obligations.

HIPAA medical billing needs no introduction. The practice of HIPAA medical billing and coding has proved only to be fruitful for a progressive healthcare system in the USA.

Therefore, taking casual measures to ensure data protection and using ordinary software to store data is now just not enough.

Private Data is at Risk!

We say that healthcare services have progressed and we have gone automated, but so have data hackers.

Medical Billing and Coding Companies need to upgrade their systems and take standardized measures.

Lots of sensitive data is transferred from physicians to insurance companies to patients.

As billing companies are directly responsible for data handling, they are held accountable for any mishap.

Why HIPAA Compliance Is Important?

Because the expense for data breaches go far beyond fines and penalties.

No matter what the reason may be for healthcare organizations to outsource HIPAA medical compliance. We should keep in mind the following perspectives.

HIPAA Medical Billing Is Compulsory for Healthcare Organizations

According to the HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule, medical billing companies would be penalized for risking Protected Health Information (PHI). Any violations will not be entertained at any cost, and the company responsible for even minor negligence will have to bear heavy fines. Of course, it would also dent a company’s reputation leading to low revenue.

Data Security Threat Has Not Remained To Just Data Manipulation/Stealing

Not long ago, accidental exposure of sensitive data was considered a HIPAA violation. It means a situation in which you have to bear the financial loss.

However, the modern definition states that even unauthorized access to data is a threat to HIPAA compliance.

The following factors build the base for the damage of HIPAA violation.

  • The scope and type of healthcare data compromised
  • Characteristics of the party or person that accessed the data or violated the HIPAA rules
  • The measures, taken to avoid vulnerable areas to protect PHI

A medical billing company can only be successful by following the HIPAA rules and regulations. The best approach is to include clauses in the BAA – Business Associate Agreement.

Moreover, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) also allows a bit of relaxation in HIPAA regulations to promote the trend of HIPAA compliance.

Things to Remember

To safeguard the interests of HIPAA compliant medical billing, it is important to not over-commit responsibilities to clients. The things, which, medical billing services are unable to commit can be strictly stated to the physicians.

Here’s a List of Things Medical Billing Should Perform

  • Perform thorough risk assessment
  • Design and implement a full-proof security plan
  • Secure Privacy policy
  • Dedicate trained resources for operations

The accuracy of billing procedure is the second priority; the first remains the infrastructure that supports the cause of HIPAA compliance. Thus, meeting security parameters and confidentiality clause is the only way forward for medical billing companies.