This article is not legal advice. Consult with a lawyer or your employer as a medical transcriptionist for specific guidelines on complying with HIPAA.
A concern many people have when considering medical transcription as a career is how HIPAA impacts their ability to work at home. That’s a legitimate concern.
HIPAA greatly impacts medical transcriptionists. It requires that patient health information be private, secure and confidential.
Employers, and therefore their employees, are covered by HIPAA as "Business Associates." Employers should have a policy in place to help work at home transcriptionists to comply. There are standards for the electronic transmission of patient information; that is, the transmission of the original dictation and the typed report. As most dictation and reports are now transmitted over the internet, it means that encryption and password protection must be used.
All this does not mean you can’t work at home and do medical transcription. It does mean you need to take the appropriate precautions.
It means you need to be concerned with the security of your work computer. This is a good area to ask employers for advice. They may require you to install particular software to help ensure that your work computer is safe for the medical data you have access to as a transcriptionist. Companies may use 128-bit encryption with the HTTPS protocol, for example, to prevent unauthorized access to the data you need as a transcriptionist. The software you use would allow you to access the data. You may also need to password protect your computer.
Employers may also have an interest in your work setup at home. It’s best if you have a door you can close for your office. HIPAA does mean you don’t want anyone else in your home reading over your shoulder. That’s private information, even if no one would say anything about it.
HIPAA also means that if you happen to receive a report on someone you know, you cannot tell them about it. That is between them and their doctor.
If you receive printed information about reports you have typed, you will need to follow appropriate procedures to return, save for reference or destroy said information. Most work at home medical transcriptionists do not need to keep printed files of the work they have done, but if you do, make sure that the information is stored securely.
If you are required to destroy printed information, find out how you are expected to manage it. Cross cut shredding may be one way to handle it, but be sure to ask so you are handling the issue correctly.
HIPAA compliance may sound overwhelming, but particularly if you work for a service that has proper protocols in place it may not be that bad. Ask questions as needed, and be certain you follow the rules. It certainly does not mean that you cannot work at home in medical transcription.
Overall, this means you have no reason to fear that you are wasting your time learning medical transcription. The work at home medical transcription industry has so far withstood several years of HIPAA and should stick around for many more.