Reasonable Safeguards for PHI are precautions that a prudent person must take to prevent a disclosure of Protected Health Information. To protect all forms of PHI: verbal, paper, and electronic, provides must apply these safeguards. They help prevent unauthorized uses or disclosures of PHI. In addition safeguards must be part of every privacy compliance plan. Organizations must share this with all members of the organization.
Safeguards for Verbal PHI
Apply Reasonable Safeguards for PHI to all of your verbal disclosures of Protected Health Information. When you work with a patient, first determine who is with the patient before discussing PHI. Secondly do not assume the patient permits disclosure of their PHI just because family or a friend is in the room with them. Ask who is with the patient and if the patient permits disclosure. Finally you may ask the persons to leave the room providing the patient an opportunity to object.
In addition, reasonable safeguards for PHI must apply to the use of all paper products to prevent these from reaching the wrong person. Providers must dispose of all paper products that have PHI in a shredder once no longer used. Personnel must make every effort to give the patients summary to the correct patient. When a paper patient summary is given to a patient, every effort must be made to give it to the correct patient.
Password protect all computers in order to protect electronic PHI. Employees must only use the computer medical accounts to which they are assigned. One must consider the use of encryption of any email or texts that contains ePHI.
Use of Reasonable Safeguards for PHI Prevent Violations
In conclusion the use of reasonable safeguards may be the difference between an Office for Civil Rights finding of a privacy violation or a finding that an incidental disclosure occurred. The latter is secondary to a permissible disclosure, and not a violation. Reasonable safeguards protect PHI and help prevent you from violating patient privacy.