Could Your Choice of Court Reporter Subject You To a HIPAA Violation?
An attorney representing clients in the insurance or medical industries must understand the importance of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This Act protects the privacy of individuals. Could your choice of court reporter subject you to a HIPAA violation? Court reporters must comply with HIPAA regulations; otherwise, the person employing the court reporter could be liable for breaching these rules. Hiring the right court reporter may protect you from any violations. There are a few facts you need to know about court reporters and HIPAA laws. If you want to work with a court reporting agency that will safeguard your information, schedule a consultation with Kusar Court Reporters at (800) 282-3376.
HIPAA Laws and Court Reporters
The National Court Reporters Association has guidelines stating that its members must follow all federal regulations. Regulations released by the United States Department of Health and Human Services outline the legal obligations of court reporters and their clients. HIPAA regulations apply to healthcare providers and insurance companies. However, those regulations extend to other service providers, such as attorneys and court reporters who receive, create, transmit, or maintain individuals’ personal health information. For example, if the court reporter’s assignment relates to care providers or has information relating to any valuable personal health information, they must take steps to protect that information. In these cases, they are considered a business associate in the eyes of the HIPAA regulations.
On a daily basis, court reporters take depositions regarding questions about a witness’s health or health-related issues. When the court reporter works for a covered entity and has health information disclosed to them, it is the responsibility of that individual to follow all applicable HIPAA regulations. In short, anyone who encounters personal health information must ensure that data is secured and protected. Otherwise, a HIPAA violation can lead to legal liabilities.
Protecting Health Information
According to HIPAA regulations, a covered entity must have a business associate agreement (BAA) in place with its associates. For that business associate, there needs to be outlines for how the court reporter is permitted to use and disclose personal health information. The BAA must also require that the court reporter implement safeguards for that information. Also, the client is required to brief the court reporter on how to handle and disclose any unauthorized use of that information in the event of a breach. In the case of a Health and Human Service investigation, the court reporter and/or court reporting agency must make their books, records, and internal practices available to the investigator.
Another point to consider is whether the court reporter uses any subcontractors, such as a proofreader or a scopist. If so, those subcontractors must follow the same conditions and restrictions regarding HIPAA regulations and personal health information. Protecting patient information is of the utmost importance to court reporters. Find out how Kusar Court Reporters take the necessary steps to guard that vital information.
Taking Safeguards with a Court Reporter
Could the choice of a court reporter subject you to a HIPAA violation? When choosing a court reporter, an individual must ensure they understand all of the regulations involving personal health information and HIPAA laws. Along with personal health information, some other types of confidential information can include:
- Names, addresses, financial information, and social security numbers
- Health and medical information, including all patients’ protected health information in accordance with HIPAA’s Privacy and Security Rule
- Information about a publicly traded company deemed as “insider information”
- Information regarding a court’s protective order or confidentiality agreement between several parties in litigation
- Information about the company’s personnel or financial status, including business plans, inventions, and trade secrets
At the very minimum, a court reporter will not disclose any confidential information to a third party except if it is necessary to fulfill their duties to the court and clients. Along with that, the court reporter must take all the required steps to safeguard that confidential information while it is in their control or possession. If there are any security breaches or improper disclosure, the court reporter needs to inform the client, whether unintentional or intentional. Additionally, any mishandling of information is subjected to an investigation in which the court reporter must be fully cooperative with a federal official.
Adhering To HIPAA Regulations
What does that mean when choosing a court reporting agency? Clients should look for companies that store information, transcripts, and video on secure servers. A company should use high-quality firewalls and anti-viral software to protect its computers, laptops, servers, and handheld devices. All court reporters should store their documents on secure servers and deliver finished products by way of secure links that have an expiration date. Client records must never be left unattended by the court reporter. While protecting personal health information may seem redundant, it does take effort to make sure all documents and information are safeguarded to the highest standards.
Many companies require their employees to sign confidentiality agreements so that any information discussed or revealed in a deposition is never repeated to third parties. When a business associate shares data with a court reporter, those individuals need assurance that nothing is discussed with anyone outside the authorized parties. Otherwise, the business associate and court reporter could face strict legal and financial liability for violating HIPAA regulations.
Consult With a Trusted Court Reporter Agency
Could your choice of court reporter subject you to a HIPAA violation? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. HIPAA regulations remain in place to protect the sensitive information of patients, doctors, and others in the medical industry. When hiring a court reporter, they need to ensure all pertinent information is protected from security breaches and never disclosed to third parties. At Kusar Court Reporters, we take every precaution to protect any personal health information with your deposition or other legal meetings. You can learn more about how we are serious about adhering to HIPAA regulations with our court reporting agency. Contact us today at (800) 282-3376.