Visiting Nurses and HIPAA Compliance

HIPAA compliance for visiting nurses works identically as if tdoes for any other medical professional, even though their working environments can be quite varied.

This is due to the fact that a visiting nurse is an employee of medical facility, hospice or other independent visiting nurse service, and is thought of as a member of a Covered Entity´s workforce. As such, a visiting nurse is not regard as a Business Associate – even though he or she provides a service for the Covered Entity – and is subject to the policies and procedures enforced by the Covered Entity.

However, there are different challenges with regards to HIPAA compliance for visiting nurses employed in the community. These challenges chiefly concern the disclosure of Protected Health Information (PHI) to people they encounter in their working environments and how their patients´ PHI is created, used, stored and shared with other members of the Covered Entity´s staff.

Visiting Nurses and Families HIPAA Compliance

Like nurses working in medical centers, visiting nurses have to use their discretion before sharing the PHI of their patients to third parties without the written permission of the patients or the persons appointed with durable power of attorney for healthcare (DPAH). Third parties can incorporate family members, family friends and members of the clergy – all of whom will likely have a genuine worry in relation to the wellbeing of the patient.

In a home environment, it can be much more difficult to avoid discussing a patient’s unrelated past medical issues with family members, particularly – as sometimes happens – when the patient has expressly said they do not want specific people made aware of their illness. This may mean patient notes, the results of tests, and telephone conversations with colleagues and consultants have to remain private to ensure HIPAA compliance for visiting nurses.

Correspondence and HIPAA Compliance for Visiting Nurses

In line with the HIPAA Privacy Rule, the content of any conversations with authorized third parties and other members of the Covered Entity´s workforce should adhere with the “Minimum Necessary Rule”. This Rule states visiting nurses must make reasonable efforts to restrict the PHI they disclose to the minimum necessary to accomplish the intended purpose of the disclosure.

This Rule not only applies to verbal communications, but those conducted electronically by text, email or Instant Messenger. Indeed, before conversations are carried out by text, email or Instant Messenger, safeguards have to be put in place to stop unsecured PHI being transmitted over publicly-accessible networks. This requirement is included in the Technological Safeguards of the Security Rule, and is a key factor of HIPAA compliance for visiting nurses.

HIPAA Compliance for Visiting Nurses Solutions

There are various tools that can cassis tin fostering a better understanding of a visiting nurse´s compliance obligations and help visiting nurses remain HIPAA-compliant in the execution of their jobs. Covered Entities can take advantage of special training courses that address the special challenges of HIPAA compliance for visiting nurses – not only to assist nurses´ understanding of their compliance requirements, but also the Covered Entity´s privacy Officer and the nurses´ managers.

With regard to sending PHI electronically, various HIPPA-compliant solutions are available including secure text messaging for healthcare; which not only secure communications, but also safeguard the integrity of PHI while it is stored on a mobile device or laptop. These solutions should be reviewed by all Covered Entities with a workforce that visits patients in the community to ensure HIPAA compliance for visiting nurses.

About Thomas Brown
Thomas Brown worked as a reporter for several years on ComplianceHome. Thomas a seasoned journalist with several years experience in the healthcare sector and has contributed to healthcare and information technology news publishers. Thomas has a particular interest in the application of healthcare information technology to better serve the interest of patients, including areas should has data protection and innovations such as telehealth.