A recent article in the New York Times told the story of several doctors' offices -- pediatricians and OB Gyns primarily -- who are finding out that while the traditional "baby wall" in the waiting room is cute, it's also, well, illegal.
Under HIPAA, "baby photos are a type of protected health information, no less than a medical chart, birth date or Social Security number, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Even if a parent sends in the photo, it is considered private unless the parent also sends written authorization for its posting, which almost no one does" reported the Times. So doctors who have been displaying baby photos for generations are having to take them down, hide them, or keep them up but risk fines or jail time.
We are, of course, big proponents of HIPAA compliance -- our telemedicine medical collaboration software is designed around it -- but there is a part of this story that seems both ludicrous and sad. Patient privacy is crucial and can save lives and support important care. But sometimes the consequences -- like having to hide the faces and stories of a doctor's office -- seem untenable.
In terms of medical collaboration, we noticed a similar disappearance of collaborative conversations among healthcare providers. The elevator became an unsafe place to have a quick check-in about a patient; and no one seemed to have time for the lounge anymore as EHR and paperwork duties absorb every free minute.
ClickCare is our way of saying: we accept the changes, but we don't accept losing the reasons we got into medicine in the first place.
Comply with HIPAA. The penalties for not doing so -- for both providers and patients -- are too great not to. But keep looking for ways to keep medicine about people. Maybe you send parents a form to fill out that would allow you to post their baby's picture. Maybe you find HIPAA-safe telemedicine platforms to reinfuse connection and collaboration into your work. It's not easy, but it's part of building the future of medicine. And that means that baby pictures are far more important than just being "cute."
Curious how other providers are using telemedicine to collaborate? Get our QuickGuide here:
Image courtesy of gabi_menashe on Flickr, used under Creative Commons rights.