Headphones: A forgotten tool for compliance

NEMT is very lucky to have a wonderful internal newsletter. I use this newsletter as part of my HIPAA compliance for education. We do a formal education with each team member and then we supplement with relevant HIPAA-related educational articles. I just turned in my latest article, which was about HIPAA and headsets.

NEMT President Linda Allard

We are a transcription company, and headsets are very important to us. Obviously a medical transcriptionist needs to use a headset to listen to dictation as well as to keep that dictation private. Home-based transcriptionists have to be especially careful that no one else in their home is able to hear what is being transcribed. Use of a headset ensures the level of privacy necessary.

Thinking about how a home-based transcriptionist handles voice privacy made me wonder how hospitals handle things they need to hear on their computers. Are they setting up special areas or using headsets when they listen to a document to code or bill? Do those needing to listen for patient care have an area where they can listen to a dictation in privacy? Most dictation is digital these days, so you can listen to it on your computer. Are you making sure that your facility is protecting this voice data? Protecting audible PHI is just as important as protecting paper PHI. If someone is listening to a document on their speakers, are others that don’t need that level of PHI able to hear it?

MTs are accustomed to the use of headsets, but I do hear from people that a headset is inconvenient or that you can’t hear well from them. Headsets are so much better now than they were when I started transcribing. It’s funny – there are stores in airports devoted to selling headsets so you can listen to your music when you travel. Some of them are very expensive, and many people think nothing about buying these expensive headsets for music and entertainment. For someone who needs to listen to PHI , a headset is a tool that you need to really think about. The good news is that you don’t need one of those really expensive ones that come from the airport store. There are medical equipment providers who focus on headsets, and they come in all shapes and sizes as well as price ranges.

If you are using your speakers, you are definitely not getting the best sound quality. You are also opening yourself up to not being HIPAA compliant. If anyone else is near when a doctor says any patient identifying information, you are now out of compliance. Are you making sure that your home-based employees are being careful as well? With the holidays coming, soon there will be family visiting. Will they be working while company is visiting? If so, using speakers could be a problem if those family members can hear what has been dictated.

Take a few minutes and check your environments where PHI is being listened to on a computer. Make sure it is compliant, and don’t forget to check your home-based team members.

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About Linda Allard

Linda Allard is the president of NEMT.
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