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COMPLIANCE

New HHS policy makes your office potentially liable for LGBTQ discrimination

While it doesn’t directly relate to billing and reimbursement, federal civil rights laws have an impact on certain aspects of healthcare operations. These laws ban your office from discriminating on the basis of protected personal characteristics, including sex. So, compliance managers need to be aware that on May 10, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an important bulletin affecting how the ban on sex discrimination will be enforced from now. Specifically, sex discrimination will go beyond just a person’s sex or gender but also their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Here’s a rundown of the law and how it might affect your operations. Federal Discrimination Law, 101 The U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate in different aspects of public activity, including employment and… . . . read more.

HIPAA

New OCR data shed light on the costs of privacy noncompliance

HIPAA enforcement isn’t nearly as fat a cash cow as enforcement of False Claims Act (FCA) and other healthcare fraud laws is, it still takes a lot of money out of the pockets of providers and into the hands of the federal government. But tracking the economics of HIPAA enforcement is tough because the government doesn’t publish data on HIPAA recovery amounts the way it does with the FCA. However, new data from the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has recently emerged that offers some rare insight into the dollars and cents of HIPAA enforcement over the past two decades. Here are some of the key figures, which encompass April 2003, when HIPAA first began being enforced, through 2020: $129,722,482: Total amount of civil penalties and settlements collected by… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

What medical office managers need to know about HIPAA

By Jordan MacAvoy bio The Health Information Portability and Protection Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996. The regulation stipulates standards that healthcare organizations and vendors must adhere to when it comes to patients’ protected health information (PHI). HIPAA-beholden organizations must secure their PHI for them to gain compliance status. Healthcare organizations and their vendors must appoint a HIPAA manager to oversee the implementation of the compliance program. If your organization has any HIPAA obligations and you get selected for this role, you should be aware of those regulations and what they mean to your business. Here’s what you should know as an office manager. Who are the covered entities? “Covered entities” refer to health insurers, healthcare providers, and any other professional individuals/organizations that handle patients’ medical information in the course… . . . read more.

Telecommuting

Cybersecurity risks rise when medical admin staff work from home

By Ron Slyker The number of people who work from home has slowly increased from year to year. In 2020 that number skyrocketed as companies including medical offices were forced to implement telecommuting policies. Making the transition from traditional office to home office has brought some challenges, but arguably the most challenging aspect of the process has been maintaining cybersecurity. Now in 2021 the need for remote worker security is more important than ever. Keep yourself safe with network security assessments Employees who work from home are more susceptible to cyber threats than employees who work in the office. The reason is businesses can afford enterprise-level cybersecurity services. The average home not only does not have access to this level of security but may also lack basic security measures. When working from… . . . read more.

MEDICAL RECORDS

5 lessons learned From 5 HIPAA fines in one day

By Danika Brinda bio The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hit a new record on Sept. 15, 2020—five HIPAA Fines with Corrective Action Plans in one day. The fines and corrective action plans had one main theme in common—not supplying patients with a copy of requested medical records in a timely fashion. The other thing of note from the action of the OCR is that these were not large multi-million dollar fines that are based on data breaches. These were fines that ranged from $3,500–$70,000 and were all based on a patient making a complaint to the federal government, which upon investigation, lead to the findings of noncompliance with HIPAA and patient’s rights defined by HIPAA. 5 lessons learned: Patients have a right… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

How to create a legally sound COVID-19 medical screening policy

 As essential workplaces, medical offices need to remain open and operating during the pandemic. At the same time, they need to ensure that employees practice social distancing and keep the infected and potentially infected away from the well. Like so many other companies facing the same challenge, you may be considering medically screening your employees each day before letting them into the workplace. While screening is highly problematic in normal times, regulators have grudgingly acknowledged that it may be a justified health and safety measure during the pandemic. The operative phrase is “may be,” which means that limits still apply. As office manager, you need to recognize and ensure keep your facility in compliance with those limits. Here’s how. Three ways COVID-19 screening can get your office into legal hot… . . . read more.

CORONAVIRUS

AMA puts out telemedicine guide

The American Medical Association (AMA) has compiled a guide to help physicians get telemedicine up and running so they can safely care for patients. The telemedicine quick guide outlines the first steps to get started and lays out key considerations to implementing telemedicine and explains policy, coding and payment. Even if your practice didn’t use telemedicine before, it may be an option now. Federal government agencies temporarily relaxed certain federal privacy regulations during the COVID-19 crisis and expanded payment policies. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is letting physicians provide beneficiaries a wider range of health care services without having to visit a health care facility. This CMS fact sheet explains more. Also, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General is waiving Medicare’s cost-sharing requirements for COVID-19 treatment delivered via telehealth from a doctor’s office or hospital emergency department. Learn more with… . . . read more.

TELEHEALTH

Public health emergency jumpstarts remote care

From video chats to relaxation of state licensing requirements, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the adoption of remote and virtual healthcare services. Here is an update from CMS: Medicare Telehealth Visits: Effective for services starting March 6, 2020, and for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), Medicare will make payments for Medicare telehealth services furnished to patients in broadened circumstances. During the PHE, clinicians can use popular applications that allow for video chat such as Apple FaceTime and Skype, thanks in part to enforcement discretion by the HHS Office of Civil Rights. Clinicians who seek additional privacy protections for telehealth while using video communication products should provide such services through technology vendors that offer HIPAA business associate agreements (BAAs) with their video communication products. In addition, clinicians… . . . read more.

INFORMATION SECURITY

HIPAA enforcement takes a dramatic new direction

Historically, HIPAA enforcement has focused predominantly on the failure of covered entities to keep protected health information (PHI) private and secure; but now the scope is broadening to encompass keeping PHI too private and too secure. The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the agency that enforces HIPAA rules, has broken new ground by fining a Florida hospital for failing to provide access to PHI to the individual it relates to. Here’s a look at the case and what it portends about the new direction in HIPAA enforcement. The HIPAA Right of Access When you hear the term “HIPAA Privacy Rule,” the first thing likely to jump into your mind is the obligation to keep PHI secure and refrain from disclosing it to third parties without appropriate authorization. But there’s… . . . read more.

HIPAA compliance with document management

By Andreas Rivera bio Recordkeeping can be one of the most stressful aspects of running a healthcare business since privacy compliance is scrutinized in healthcare more than any other industry. Anyone with experience in the healthcare industry knows that violating HIPAA comes with steep penalties. It’s a constant anxiety to make sure your records are being stored in an appropriate manner, with all the security and privacy requirements being met for each new record added. Even if you’re being diligent with how you file your paperwork, having physical paper exacerbates the possibility of human error occurring. Most of the time, the most common HIPAA violations usually occur without the facility realizing it. Here are a few common HIPAA violations when it comes to electronic data storage. Insufficient or lack of… . . . read more.


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