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Thread: For VA patients; HIPAA forbids patient/Dr. e-mail communication??

  1. #1

    Question For VA patients; HIPAA forbids patient/Dr. e-mail communication??

    I just got an e-mail from one of my VA docs saying that they are no longer allowed to communicate with patients via e-mail in compliance with HIPAA Regulations. Any info on this? Any way to get around these rules, maybe a letter of release or something?

    Thanks In Advance.

    QV

  2. #2
    New VA regulations do restrict any e-mail communications with patients to non-medical content such as when your next appointment is, or a request that they call you and giving your number. We also will be getting software starting this next week that will filter for any inclusion of SS# in any e-mails that are outgoing and prevent their transmission. There are no exceptions. We have been instructed to send a specific message to any VA patient who contacts us by e-mail to tell them that e-mail is not considered secure enough for HIPPA requirements, and that they should call us or come in for an appointment to discuss any medical or person issues. Sorry...it is not up to your individual provider, and there will be no exceptions.

    (KLD)

  3. #3

    Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

    Thanks KLD, I can always count on you.

    The e-mail I got wasn't very explicit, just that I would receive a call rather than e-mail response to my question. Well that sets us back many years. I hope there will be a concerted effort to deal with it. Encryption should not be out of the question according to many sources, including here:

    HIPAA Compliance Frequently Asked Questions

    http://www.xtytech.com/HipaaFAQ.htm

  4. #4
    Yes, encryptation is available, but your provider has to apply for this and get training, and even then it is ONLY allowed for use in VA to VA employee communication, not for e-mail communication with patients or those outside the VA system.

    The VA has its own second secure e-mail system (older than the internet) that we can use for communication about patients without encryption since it is not through the internet, but patients and non-VA health care providers don't have access to this. We use this to communicate about patients with our spoke SCI clinics about patient issues, for example.

    Your only recourse on this would be to communicate with the PVA and your congressperson to get HIPAA changed.

    (KLD)

  5. #5
    On a similar subject, when you refill prescriptions online why don't they give you a brief description of the refill? This would be very helpful when ordering medications. Because I don't always know the refill numbers, I will sometimes reorder everything and end up with excess items like gloves or lube.

    Being able to look up appointments online would also be a plus.

  6. #6
    Quadvet, that's nice that you could e-mail your doctor. I've been lucky at the Tampa VA to have some really cool doctors.

  7. #7
    Super Moderator Sue Pendleton's Avatar
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    KLD, will this be heading to the military hospitals anytime soon? Calling to speak with my doc is fine with him but the desk clowns leave messages that take a week to get to him. No matter what he does they still reroute his messages. Without email it means a trek to Walter Reed and right now they are rather busy with people who are still rather acute.
    Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

    Disclaimer: Answers, suggestions, and/or comments do not constitute medical advice expressed or implied and are based solely on my experiences as a SCI patient. Please consult your attending physician for medical advise and treatment. In the event of a medical emergency please call 911.

  8. #8
    My understanding is that this will also be pushed out to the military.

    Using My Healthe Vet, you can reorder your prescriptions, and also see your upcoming appointments (if your VA is participating fully). My understanding is that eventually, since this is a secure site, that e-mail through My Healthe Vet to your provider may some day be available.

    When you get your prescriptions, for either supplies or meds, you should have a refill slip that includes a description and the number. You used to have to use them to mail in for refills, but that is no longer needed if you prefer on-line or automated phone refills. Keep these handy so that you have them when either ordering on-line or via phone. That way you will reorder the correct items only.

    Sue, we can still receive and send e-mails to patients, but they can ONLY include info such as this
    • Please call me at your earliest opportunity at this number.
    • Please call me to discuss the results of your recent tests.
    • Please make an appointment to see me.
    This is the message we are supposed to send out to any patients who send us an e-mail:

    Dear veteran,
    The VA has determined that e-mail is not considered a secure method for discussing your care, so in order to protect your privacy, I must avoid writing any detailed guidance about your health and ask that you instead call me at the number below so that we can discuss your questions or concerns.


    We cannot include the results of the test, diagnoses, or any details of your medical or health management, nor your SS#. I suspect the DOD will be drug along on this since they seem to follow the VA's lead in a number of areas.

    (KLD)

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by SCI-Nurse
    My understanding is that this will also be pushed out to the military.

    Using My Healthe Vet, you can reorder your prescriptions, and also see your upcoming appointments (if your VA is participating fully). My understanding is that eventually, since this is a secure site, that e-mail through My Healthe Vet to your provider may some day be available.

    When you get your prescriptions, for either supplies or meds, you should have a refill slip that includes a description and the number. You used to have to use them to mail in for refills, but that is no longer needed if you prefer on-line or automated phone refills. Keep these handy so that you have them when either ordering on-line or via phone. That way you will reorder the correct items only.

    Sue, we can still receive and send e-mails to patients, but they can ONLY include info such as this
    • Please call me at your earliest opportunity at this number.
    • Please call me to discuss the results of your recent tests.
    • Please make an appointment to see me.
    This is the message we are supposed to send out to any patients who send us an e-mail:

    Dear veteran,
    The VA has determined that e-mail is not considered a secure method for discussing your care, so in order to protect your privacy, I must avoid writing any detailed guidance about your health and ask that you instead call me at the number below so that we can discuss your questions or concerns.
    We cannot include the results of the test, diagnoses, or any details of your medical or health management, nor your SS#. I suspect the DOD will be drug along on this since they seem to follow the VA's lead in a number of areas.

    (KLD)
    KLD, thanks for clarifying this. Saves me about 10 phone calls (j/k).

    If patient to Dr. encryption is out of the question, seems like your suggestion that e-mail through My Healthe Vet is the only answer. You are an invaluable resource KLD, I think we would all agree. Thank you much.

    QV
    Last edited by quadvet; 09-12-2007 at 05:03 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Aly's Avatar
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    My Mom is a NP and she will not give out info via e-mail with patients just as a personal rule. I work for a community service board that serves people with mental lllneses and we are not allowed to send anything via e-mail out of the network system due to HIPPA laws.
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