With the recent issuance of the long-awaited final rule by the Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS"), the protection of patient information has been a hot topic among the health care industry the past few months. The recently-published rule, which has a compliance date of September 23, 2013, significantly expands certain obligations for health care providers and their business associates under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA").

In light of the expanded rules, the move to electronic medical records, and the prevalent use of mobile devices, developing policies and procedures to secure patient information on your I-phone, Ipad, Blackberry, etc., has become increasingly important. The first step for any provider is deciding whether or not you will allow the use of mobile devices within your practice for accessing, receiving, transmitting, or storing patient health information. In making such determination, you should thoroughly review the risks (e.g., increased risk of theft of patient information) and benefits (e.g., convenience) associated with using mobile devices for such purposes. However, with the transition to electronic medical records and a growing trend towards communication via e-mail, it may be difficult not to use mobile devices, at least to some extent, within your practice.

Originally Published In Birmingham Medical News on April 8, 2013.

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