Automated reminder systems are a great way to reduce costly no-shows. However with all the changes in healthcare, you may wonder if these automated messages violate HIPAA rules for protecting patient privacy.
The short answer: you’re OK
HIPAA considers appointment reminders as a part of treatment; so they can be made without an authorization. However, both HIPAA regulations and common sense dictate that you take care in how you remind your patients.
HIPAA also states that you should do what you can to accommodate a patient’s preferred method of communication — for example sending emails instead of postal mail. (Or not sending reminders at all.)
When you manage your schedule with AppointmentsEverywhere, you can remind clients by mail, email, text and phone, which is pretty “accommodating.” The intake screen includes a section where the patient can select which method(s) of reminders they want.
Use good judgement
You need to customize your reminders to your situation. For a pediatric practice sending reminders to parents, it may be just fine to include the time, date, location and provider in the appointment reminder. However when privacy concerns are extremely high, such as with an AIDS clinic, your text message might be as vague as, “You have an appointment coming up.”
Always remember: “What is my patient really forgetting?”
Beyond meeting privacy concerns, you should make sure your reminders are effective. Sometimes patients really do forget their appointments; more often they forget why they need to attend. Make sure to include a brief compliance message in your reminders. In essence: “here’s why it’s important to make your appointment.”
Have a question?
If you have a question or suggestion about appointment reminders, leave your comment below. We’d love to hear from you!