HIPAA compliance and informed consent are both fundamental in medical ethics and law. Healthcare providers, whether hospitals, physicians, local clinics, health insurance companies, etc., must know about HIPAA compliance and informed consent because it is their obligation.
Although these two terms are essential to every medical practice, their nature differs. HIPAA compliance gives patients the right to protected health information, while informed consent is about the patient’s right to medical information.
Let’s take a look at the differences between HIPAA compliance and informed consent.
Healthcare providers must strictly follow HIPAA guidelines to protect their patients and maintain their credibility.
Healthcare organizations and providers achieve HIPAA compliance if they strictly adhere to the standards, policies, procedures, and practices on collecting, storing, and transferring healthcare data containing personal health information (PHI) set forth by HIPAA.
PHI and electronic protected health information (ePHI) is any individually identifiable health information that includes but is not limited to the following information:
- Medical history
- Medical records
- Common patient identifiers such as name, address, date of birth, and social security number
- Medication history
- Health insurance details
- Documented communication between healthcare providers and patients
For a medical institution or practice to be HIPAA compliant, HIPAA mandates that they do the following:
- Determine how to externally disclose or share health information properly
- Manage the use of regulated internal data
- Maintain information security and risk with the implementation of policies and internal control
- Investigate and respond to security mishaps and potential breaches of regulated information
HIPAA and its compliance ensure sensitive health information protection and that only authorized persons can access the data. In other words, HIPAA compliance assures appropriate security of health information.
When a covered entity is HIPAA compliant, it means that they put their best effort into protecting their patient’s medical information and maintaining its confidentiality. Patients are more trusting of medical organizations and practices that comply with HIPAA — unfortunately, not all are HIPAA compliant.
Healthcare organizations and providers must undergo a comprehensive and proprietary process to confirm their compliance with HIPAA. Ultimately, HIPAA differentiates compliant medical organizations and practices from non-compliant.
Patients have the right to receive information and ask questions about their treatments.
Generally speaking, informed consent is a communication process between healthcare professionals and patients that leads to the patient’s agreement or permission for care, treatment, or services. Medical care cannot begin without the patient’s informed consent.
Importance of Informed Consent
It is every patient’s right to obtain information and ask questions before a medical procedure. Informed consent ensures that a healthcare provider has adequately educated the patient and their guardian (if necessary) about their condition, testing, and treatment options to make well-considered decisions about their care.
By giving their consent, patients demonstrate that they are actively participating in the decision-making process of their care and are not forced to agree with what their provider has to say. On the other hand, healthcare providers must make appropriate recommendations and provide their reasoning for said decisions.
What’s Within Informed Consent?
Standards for informed consent vary in every state, especially for telemedicine visits. But common information that providers must include in informed consent are the following:
- Patient’s name and condition
- Description of the appropriate procedure or treatment recommended by the healthcare provider
- Possible risks and benefits for all recommended medical procedures
- Alternative options, including the patient’s right to decline the procedure
Exceptions for obtaining informed consent include:
- Patient’s inability to sign a consent form due to impairment
- During life-threatening emergencies with inadequate time to obtain informed consent
- Voluntary waived consent, but the provider must document the decision in the patient’s medical record
Even after signing a consent form, the patient has the right to change their mind anytime. Meanwhile, healthcare providers must present relevant information accurately and sensitively to successfully obtain appropriate informed consent.
Depending on the standard of care, you can obtain informed consent in written or verbal form. You must adequately document informed consent conversations, such as via text messages, which is why using a HIPAA-compliant text messaging platform is essential.
Curogram is a HIPAA-compliant 2-way text messaging system that healthcare providers trust for informed consent and more.
Patient confidentiality and safety are major concerns in healthcare, and HIPAA compliance and informed consent secure them.
Aside from the apparent differences between HIPAA compliance and informed consent, these two go hand-in-hand when obtaining digital informed consent.
Instead of using paper-based forms, patients today opt for digital forms because it is more convenient — they can fill them out anytime and anywhere. But because informed consent is part of a patient’s medical records, and HIPAA considers medical records as protected health information (PHI), the HIPAA Security Rule covers informed consent.
The Security Rule requires appropriate technical measures to ensure the confidentiality and security of ePHI, such as digital informed consent. To ensure that your practice complies with the standards of the Security Rule, you must use a HIPAA-compliant system. One of them is Curogram, a 2-way texting solution that fully adheres to HIPAA rules and regulations regarding the collection and transmission of ePHI.
With Curogram, you can text your patients without having to worry about disclosing PHI. Moreover, you can send patient intake forms or informed consent requests to phones or desktop computers. Once the patient enters their data or consents to treatment, they can send the electronic form back, and Curogram’s software uploads it to your EHR automatically. That ultimately cuts down the amount of work in your medical office!