The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, confuses a lot of therapists. Parts of the law are flexible based on the size and type of entity involved. Other parts apply equally to every covered entity. It’s a big and complex law, one that sometimes scares therapists and counselors away from using technology in their work.
Thankfully, there are a number of good and inexpensive resources for psychotherapists who want to comply with the law. Each of the ones listed below is less than $35.
The Government’s HIPAA website
The Department of Health and Human Services has a web site just for professionals seeking to understand HIPAA. The site offers a lot of information, and is easy to navigate. Perhaps most importantly, because it represents the law as it is understood by the agency tasked with enforcing it, it is the most trustworthy, current, and direct source of instruction on how to comply. And of course, it is free to use.
Guide to Privacy and Security of Electronic Health Information
Multiple federal websites offer helpful information on HIPAA. The entire HealthIT.gov site is fantastic, with resources like sample Notices of Privacy Practices, security risk assessment tools, and detailed information on privacy on mobile devices. But the highlight might be their Guide to Privacy and Security of Electronic Health Information, a 60-page publication geared toward health care professionals that reads like a really good textbook. And it’s free, too.
HIPAA Demystified: HIPAA Compliance for Mental Health Professionals
Because the government site is written for all providers covered by HIPAA, it sometimes can be tough for mental health professionals to understand how it specifically applies in their context. This paperback is written by a licensed therapist and is specific to mental health care, and it’s fantastic. Lorna Hecker’s writing is clear, concise, and specific without being cold. She uses case examples to humanize how therapists work with technology, and how we can do so responsibly.
With these and many more resources available online, it is getting gradually easier for health care providers to understand and implement the requirements of HIPAA. That serves to protect clients and therapists alike.