The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects sensitive medical information. The US federal statute dates back to 1996, and details standards that prevent the spread of private data without a patient’s consent. 

HIPAA protections extend to transcription service providers when transcripts include medical information. As a company that handles data subject to HIPAA protections, Verbit takes this obligation seriously and maintains compliance. Any entities that use transcripts with HIPAA protected patient information should ensure that they provide adequate security and that their transcription providers do as well. 

When does HIPAA Compliant Transcription Matter?

Transcripts often contain medical information, especially now that many doctors’ appointments, courses and depositions are taking place virtually. Sometimes the need for HIPAA compliance is obvious, but there are other cases where the requirement to protect information might be less apparent. 

Medical Purposes

If a doctor is transcribing a conversation with a patient, they must ensure HIPAA protections for that information. This requirement applies to physical medical care as well as therapy and mental health services. 

During the early days of the pandemic, telehealthcare appointments spiked by 154%. Although that number has leveled off, it’s still far higher than before COVID-19’s widespread lockdowns, and many experts believe that the trend will persist well into the future. Telehealth is popular for its convenience, but it’s important to ensure that the move to online appointments does not lead to a loss of patient privacy protections.

Legal Matters 

When people file a lawsuit related to injuries or trauma, they must prove their damages through medical evidence. Hospital records, doctors’ opinions and other medical information will be critical to their case- but it’s also private and protected by HIPAA. 

Depositions frequently include medical testimony and records, so legal transcripts need to comply with HIPAA. Like telehealthcare, virtual depositions increased during the pandemic. While the number of remote depositions jumped to 90% at the height of lockdowns, current projections indicate that around 50% will remain that way indefinitely. The convenience and cost-savings make this format appealing for lawyers, court reporters and others involved in litigation. However, the deposition transcripts, which are vital for the attorneys, need to comply with HIPAA, beginning from when the court reporter takes the initial recording through the sharing of any of those files.

Medical Schools 

Students in medical school or studying to become mental health professionals may use patient files as a part of their training. In these cases, students and educators must also ensure that transcriptions comply with HIPAA

How to Protect Medical Transcripts

Medical data protection

Knowing when HIPAA applies is only part of the challenge. Professionals handling protected information need to learn how to ensure they are protecting patient information. When discussing medical information, whether with a patient, other providers or in a deposition, using a HIPAA compliant transcription provider is one of the most critical factors. 

Transcription solutions, including Verbit’s, implement robust encryption standards to protect sensitive data. The platform integrates with Zoom to offer HIPAA compliant transcription services for virtual depositions and other conference calls requiring this security level. Ensuring data stays private is the right thing to do, but it’s also the law, and violating HIPAA can lead to serious legal complications.

Consequences of HIPAA Violations 

The legal ramifications of a HIPAA violation vary based on the severity and culpability of the entity responsible for protecting personal healthcare information. In the least severe cases, where the exposure of the data is unintentional and the provider took reasonable care to comply, the financial penalty can still be as high as $50,000. The worst cases involve willful neglect and no attempt to correct the violation, with the minimum fine for a single violation being $50,000 and maximum fines reaching $1.5 million per year. 

Violating HIPAA can also be a criminal offense. There is a possibility of up to one year in jail in minor cases, while severe and willful violations can lead to a prison sentence of up to ten years. Given the serious nature of such violations, taking the time to understand HIPAA compliance and security standards for transcription services is essential. 

Security Beyond HIPAA

Finding a HIPAA compliant transcription provider is vital whenever transcripts contain private healthcare information. There are additional security measures that software as a service (SaaS) providers cantake when handling sensitive information and client data. 

One indicator of security for SaaS companies is SOC 2 compliance. Requesting a SOC 2 compliance report is an excellent way to vet outside vendors who are handle private data. By ensuring the proper protections are in place, professionals can transcribe the information they need without putting private patient data and themselves at risk. 

Verbit provides HIPAA compliant transcription services and SOC 2 compliance to protect client data. To learn more about transcription and accessibility tools, including captioning, audio description and translation solutions, contact Verbit.