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Could Texting Messages To a Patient be Considered as Hipaa Violent?

“Whatever I see or hear in the lives of my patients, whether in connection with my professional practice or not, which ought not to be spoken of outside, I will keep secret, as considering all such things to be private.” — The Hippocratic Oath, translated by Michael North (2002)

The Hippocratic oath that doctors take means that they have vowed to a number of different deities that they will protect their patients and provide them the best possible medical care they can give them. By taking the Hippocratic oath, doctors also swear not to divulge any private information of their patients to others. If everyone stuck by this oath, there would be very few HIPAA violations. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. With communication between doctors and their patients being done through a myriad of channels, it isn’t uncommon to think about any of these breaching HIPAA compliance. Is it possible that checking in with your doctor for an appointment schedule is something to be worried about? Here’s a link to learn more about that: https://www.providertech.com/5-hipaa-rules-regarding-text-messaging/

Source:physicianspractice.com

Prevalence of Texting

Texting has become one of the quickest and most efficient ways to communicate. According to Text Marketing Statistics “Daily Mobile phone activity is dominated by messaging above other apps and activities.” It isn’t a question about your patients not being able to get your text or you not getting theirs. Texting has become an option for health care providers, doctors, and medical staff simply because it provides many great benefits.

Benefits of Texting

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is advised that individuals are to stay at home so as to contain the spread of the virus as well as to keep themselves safe. Now more than ever are people wary about their health. Having the need to see your doctor for any old reason may now seem like a daunting task. With the option to text your doctor in between appointments you can get their opinion on whether or not you will need to see them for an in-person appointment. Should you need to make an appointment, texting will allow you to communicate with your doctor or their staff easier regarding the schedule. Should you need to suddenly reschedule, letting them know will just be a matter of seconds with a text. If you are able to make it, your doctor can let you know exactly what time they will be able to accommodate you, allowing you to make the most out of your own time to gauge how long your travel will be and not subjecting you to leaving too early only to sit in a waiting room until it is your turn. Texting also has the added benefit of allowing your doctor and their staff to get into contact with you for reminders about medication, exercises, diets, etc. so you don’t forget. In the case that you do, it allows them to re-engage you when you would have possibly done otherwise.

With all of these benefits, it is a wonder why texting can be considered a HIPAA violation. Well not all texts and texting applications are created the same. Oftentime when we think of texts, what comes to mind may be the default texting application installed on our phones. If not those then instant messaging applications like Telegram, WhatsApp, etc. are commonly used as well. Unfortunately all of these fall under the category of “unsecure communication channels.” This is because they don’t meet the “Minimum Necessary Standard.” This standard is defined by the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

Texting as a HIPAA Violation

Source:fiercehealthcare.com

The requirements are as follows:

  • Those with authorization to communicate PHI must authenticate their identities with a unique username and PIN.
  • A system must be implemented to monitor the activity of text messages containing PHI and ensure message accountability.
  • Data transmitted beyond an organization’s internal firewall must be encrypted so that it is undecipherable if intercepted in transit.

Common messaging applications mentioned earlier don’t have these features, allowing just about anyone to get into your messages and access your PHI should they gain access to your mobile phone. “Without these minimum standards in place, texting is in violation of HIPAA whenever a text is sent containing PHI.” This could be a challenge as personal mobile phones or smartphones are becoming the norm in many medical practices.

HIPAA Violations

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Sometimes it may seem like HIPAA violations aren’t all that much of a big deal. Sometimes they almost seem a little silly when anecdotes about Walgreen’s pharmacists and their husbands’ exes are the talk of the town. But there is a real severity that comes with these violations that don’t immediately click. In the case of this HIPAA violation, it was pointed out by the victim’s legal counsel that it may feel stigmatising to have your personal health information out in the open. Medical conditions may be something you want to keep to yourself until you are more comfortable to speak up about them. But in this case, it may feel so uncomfortable that a patient may even stop seeking out treatment and may cause their ailment or affliction to get worse. On the other hand, common HIPAA violations come in the form of phishing and data breaches of hospital records. This allows hackers to get crucial personal information that may be used for a variety of nefarious activity.

With all of this in mind, it may seem daunting or questionable to have texting as an option for communication between patients and their doctors. Well this doesn’t have to be the case. There are plenty of options not for HIPAA compliant communications which ensures that your PHI is protected while also providing you the benefits of regular texting. Remember that these channels were made to better service patients and not to put them at any risk. These risks aren’t just about their physical or mental health but the security of your information as well. Take a moment to go over the 5 HIPAA rules regarding texts and reach out to your doctor or healthcare provider to find out how you can get involved in HIPAA compliant communication with them now!

5 Questions You Need to Ask Before Hiring a Medical Lawyer

The health department of the United States of America has come a long way since the 1980s and 1990s, but even today there is the possibility for problems to arise when you go for a checkup or to talk with your doctor. Unfortunately, this happens because the countries health department constantly pushes hospitals, doctors and other medical staff to work harder.

This kind of stress and constant pressure from the government can make even the greatest doctors make a simple mistake like prescribing the wrong drug or giving the wrong advice to the patient. While most of the time these little mistakes do not have such an impact on people’s lives, there can be situations where a wrong medical judgment may lead to more serious problems for the patient.

If you have found yourself in this kind of situation, you have probably started looking for a lawyer who might help you with this kind of problem. The lawyer that will be able to help you with this issue should have a lot more experience in this area or more specifically, medical malpractice.

Considering just how many lawyers are out there that are offering their services to the people in need, it is very difficult to find the right one. Fortunately, we have made this article that will help you is exactly that. With these questions that we are going to list you will definitely find the right medical lawyer for your situation.

Have you ever dealt with the case similar to mine?

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This may be the single most important question that you can ask a lawyer to determine whether he or she is the right person for the job. It is no secret that experience is one of the most important things when it comes to dealing with a case that is on trial, this is why it is very important that you find someone that has been introduced to cases that are similar to yours.

So, if you have found a contender to be your attorney, you have got to ask them whether they have dealt with the situation that is comparable to yours.

Can I see some proof?

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Assuming that the attorney answered that they do indeed have experience in medical malpractice than they probably need some documentation to use as proof to show that they have actually worked a case similar to yours. There’s nothing wrong about asking for files that they should always have at hand.

If the attorney ever shows some signs that they don’t actually want to show you their history of documents then that is a red flag. It is basically a sign that you should start looking for someone else that may be able to help you with your legal problem.

How long have you have been an attorney?

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Another very important thing that you have to consider before hiring anyone to help you with this legal issue, you have with your doctor or with the hospital is to determine whether that person is familiar enough with the law.

Even if they do have previous experiences and have dealt with cases that are very similar to what is happening to you right now, it is still vital that they have years of experience of being an attorney. Because it’s not just about understanding the wrongdoings of the doctor or the hospital, it is about their ability to communicate with the hospital, Judge, and jury to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

This is why I personally recommend that everyone that has any kind of legal issue, should first question the attorney about his or her experience with their job. If you’re looking for a medical lawyer in Florida and with a lot of experience, you should check out thelawcenter.com.

How much is this going to cost me?

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Naturally, it is going to be very important for you just how much money you’re going to spend with this legal problem. The entire point is not just about you proving the hospital that you are the person who has been wronged, you also deserve to be paid back for all of your troubles. Spending thousands of dollars on a lawyer just to get a settlement that is worth just a couple hundred dollars does not make a lot of sense.

This is why you should look for someone who will have reasonable fees and will provide you with the best possible legal support that you can get for that money. Of course, you shouldn’t just look for the cheapest possible lawyer, but you also shouldn’t pay a ridiculous amount of money while getting the same quality of legal representation.

Will this go to court?

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Not every case that is related to medical malpractice goes to court. In fact, most of them get settled out of court. Naturally, dealing with this kind of issue is always better without having to work with the judge, go on trial, etc.

Unfortunately, sometimes you just can control what is going to happen and you will have to face the hospital in court. An attorney that has had experience with cases just like yours will know whether it will be going to court or not as soon as he or she glances at your file. They have had their fair share of trials which means they can come to the conclusion on what kind of future your case will have.

If you have found a lawyer that is unable to answer this question for you, you should definitely be looking for someone more educated on the matter.

What we listed above are some of the most useful questions you can mention to the lawyer that you’re considering to hire. Keep in mind, even if the attorney manages to answer all of these questions correctly or in the right way, that does not mean that they will be able to solve your case easily. There are some complications that they simply cannot control.

5 Requirements for Suing for Medical Malpractice

Some cases of medical malpractice are obvious and there is a clear-cut case for compensation. A patient may have received the wrong treatment in the hospital, the wrong organ was removed, or the wrong medication was given that resulted in severe illness or death.

Other cases are harder to prove, so there are requirements that attorneys must meet before a medical malpractice claim can be successful. If your case meets these requirements, then you can receive compensation for damages due to medical malpractice.

Establish Relationship

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When you sue a doctor for malpractice, you must be able to establish a relationship with him or her. If it is a doctor you’ve been seeing for regular treatments, then the relationship will be easy to establish.

If it is someone on a hospital’s staff that is treating you after an accident or medical crisis, then establishing a relationship is harder to do. Without a relationship between you and a doctor, then a case of malpractice can be more difficult to prove.

Provider was Negligent

Source:nswcompensationlawyers.com.au

There must be negligence on the part of the doctor for you to recover compensation from any medical complications or damages resulting from treatments. To prove negligence, it must be shown that the doctor breached their “duty of care.”

Duty of care refers to the standard of reasonable care that a competent physician would provide a patient under the same circumstances. If another doctor wouldn’t have given the patient the same treatment or care, then negligence may be established.

Harm was Caused by Negligence

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Another part of proving malpractice is showing that negligence by the treating physician was responsible for the harm or injury suffered by the patient.

If a doctor misread a chart and ordered the wrong medication, an allergic reaction resulting in harm to the patient could help establish the doctor’s negligence. 

According to Schrager & Sachs, if a physician doesn’t meet their duty of care, then he or she can be held accountable for the harm they caused.

Harm Must Led to Damages

Even if it can be established that the doctor did not meet the standards of care, but no damage occurred, then the doctor cannot be sued for medical malpractice. The patient must suffer some type of harm before they can sue for malpractice. 

The types of damages that can be sued for are:

  • Mental anguish
  • Pain
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of the ability to earn a living
  • Incurring more medical bills

File in a Timely Manner

Another requirement to successfully sue for malpractice is filing a lawsuit before the state’s statute of limitations expires. Each state has different statute of limitations by which an attorney must file a claim.

In the state of Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is two years. However, the two years doesn’t begin until the patient is aware of or should have been reasonably be aware of, the damages they’ve suffered.

Source:expertise.com

If you think you have a medical malpractice case, contact a law firm that specializes in them, so they can help you establish negligence and any damages you suffered. An excellent lawyer can help you win compensation for any damages that you deserve.