After a very frustrating phone call with Rodney Curtis at Stewart-Marchman, I sent the following email 1 to him and to Sophia Mas:
Dear Rodney and Sophia,
Please understand that I work in the technology industry, and for many years I worked specifically in the field of medical technology, including health insurance subrogation and claims processing.
When Rodney told me earlier this morning that he was not able to communicate anything regarding my mother using email and, in fact, that he and others at Stewart Marchman ACT had been recently reprimanded for doing so, I was very concerned.
This is very, very wrong.
You need to make it absolutely clear to the person that scolded you that there is nothing at all improper related to using email to discuss patient health care. (Email is almost always the most efficient way to communicate. It allows you to be very detailed and include exact information which may not be easily conveyed — or which may be misunderstood — on a telephone call.)
Because I wanted to be sure, I confirmed this by visiting the federal Department of Health and Human Services HIPAA website. There is a tremendous amount of very clear and specific information on this page, for example:
The most important part is this statement: “THE PRIVACY RULE IS NOT ANTI-ELECTRONIC. YOU CAN COMMUNICATE WITH PATIENTS, PROVIDERS, AND OTHERS BY E-MAIL, TELEPHONE, OR FACSIMILE …”
Again: This is very, very important. Simply telling everyone not to use email is a horrible interpretation of HIPAA regulations. It is completely incorrect, it is irresponsible, and it is inefficient.
If you would like my support to help convince your superiors of this, please do not hesitate to contact me. The federal government provides a wealth of information on its official website explaining the correct implementation of HIPAA rules, and I am more than happy to share these with you.
1 email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org