What Medical Interpreters Need to Know about HIPAA

What Medical Interpreters Need to Know about HIPAA

Medical interpreters play crucial roles in patient care, whether they interact with patients in a hospital room, clinic, or assisted living facility. While they work closely with physicians and other medical providers, they are not medical personnel. So, does HIPAA apply to medical interpreters? YES.

“HIPAA” stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It is a law that protects patient medical information and privacy. It applies to health care providers, health insurance companies, and third-party entities that process health information. But it also applies to individuals who work closely with health care providers and handle patient health information, including lawyers, consultants, and medical interpreters.

Under HIPAA, Intelligere’s medical interpreters are considered business associates and required to protect patient data. Personal and health details about a patient are considered Protected Health Information, or PHI. Medical interpreters must take special care with PHI. Here are few of the best practices Intelligere medical interpreters practice.

Keep All PHI Communications Private

Communication with Intelligere is key to accepting and completing accepted cases, knowing pertinent patient information and location of the appointments, and to know any other information that helps the interpreter complete their assignment successfully. Without staying very diligent, however, it’s easy to accidently share vulnerable PHI. Medical interpreters should never send PHI by email, text, or in a voicemail unless they are absolutely sure the data is secure behind a password or other safeguard. The best solution is to communicate through health care technology, such as a secure interpreter portal

Secure All Devices Containing PHI

Many medical interpreters rely on their smartphones, tablets, and other personal devices to communicate with Intelligere, whether by phone, email, or through an app. In these cases, Intelligere requires that interpreters always password-protect their devices and never share them with friends and family.

Store Timesheets Discreetly and Securely

It’s common for timesheets to contain patient PHI, so it’s important that medical interpreters treat these documents with care. Intelligere recommends keeping timesheets discreetly tucked away in a folder or notebook to avoid leaving them out for anyone to read. Or, better yet, interpreters can use a timesheet app to track hours electronically. When sharing timesheets with a provider, be sure to only include the data that provider needs. When not in use, timesheets should never be kept in a vehicle or out on a desk.

Highly qualified and trained medical interpreters take their responsibilities under HIPAA seriously. While they do not provide medical treatment, they are a vital part of a patient’s care team. For more information on HIPAA regulations of medical interpreters, contact Intelligere today.