NTD 2022 ISSUE 3 DE-3 - Page 18


How to Protect Patient Privacy While Building Your Online Reputation

by Ernie Cote
“ Get a life .”
That ’ s how one dentist ended his scathing response to a bad online review recently . And that ’ s after revealing details about his patient ’ s personal health information ( PHI ), a clear violation of the U . S . Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ( HIPAA ).
As a consequence of the violation — combined with the dentist ’ s refusal to cooperate with the resulting investigation — he received a $ 50,000 penalty from the U . S . government .
Penalties for privacy violations don ’ t just happen here in the U . S . According to the UN , 71 % of countries have legislation in place to govern how personal data is used in healthcare practices . In most of these countries , disregarding patients ’ data privacy rights can result in serious legal and financial ramifications .
While cautionary tales like “ Dr . Get a Life ” are alarming , don ’ t let them deter you from engaging your patients online .
As a dental practitioner , it is possible to interact with your patients online while maintaining their right to privacy . Here are four tips to help you find this important balance :
1 ) Train and equip everyone on your staff .
Set your staff up for success ; provide them with everything they need to protect PHI while representing your practice . This includes a thorough training program , along with clear social media guidelines and policies that everyone understands and agrees to follow .
In the U . S ., healthcare staff should thoroughly understand what constitutes protected health information ( PHI ) under HIPAA and how it can be used or disclosed ( hint : only when the HIPAA Privacy Rule permits or requires it , or with the authorized individual ’ s signature ). The HIPAA Journal goes into more detail about PHI .
And don ’ t forget about your state or local laws . For example , in Texas , healthcare practitioners must follow HIPAA and the Texas Medical Records Privacy Act ( TMRPA ), as well .
18 NORTH TEXAS DENTISTRY | www . northtexasdentistry . com