Around 15-20 percent of patients in the United States live in rural areas. Unfortunately, between primary care shortages, hospital closures, and geographic isolation, those patients are up against significant barriers to accessing healthcare. The National Rural Health Association reports there are only 30 specialists per 100,000 people in rural communities, compared to 263 specialists per 100,000 urban residents.
If you've been following our blog, you know by now that providing patients with electronic access to their medical images is cheaper and more efficient than burning and delivering CD copies. Giving patients online access to their images also offers many additional marketing benefits for your practice and easier access for your patients.
There's still a cost for this service, but you can expect it to be less than providing CDs. In either case, more and more providers and hospitals are integrating a HIPAA charge for medical records to help cover the expenses incurred by providing patients with copies of their images.
Sharing medical images in a HIPAA-noncompliant fashion is a violation of patient privacy that can expose you to large fines and potentially criminal liability. But what exactly constitutes a HIPAA violation? In theory, the actions that constitute HIPAA violations are straightforward: sharing what's considered to be private health information (PHI) with someone who's not supposed to receive it.
But from this simple definition, HIPAA violations related to medical images in particular, can take many forms, including exposing a patient's medical images to a vendor who does not have a Business Associates Agreement (BAA), sharing images with a family member or spouse without the patient's written consent, losing a laptop computer or cell phone containing protected medical information, or even mailing a medical image to the wrong address.
This blog will present guidelines for remaining HIPAA compliant, sharing images, protecting patient privacy, and reducing your risk of violating HIPAA rules and regulations.
Second opinions are, in the words of many within the healthcare industry, essential in the case of critical illness and should be the right of every patient. Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover or even require an in-person second opinion consultation with a specialist prior to treatment. Medicare even pays for a third opinion if the second opinion differs significantly from the first.
Telehealth exploded at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as patients and providers scrambled to find safe, effective ways to receive and deliver care remotely.