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    Can my text to a parent lead to a HIPAA violation?

    A 2-year-old patient, Danielle, is brought by her distraught mother to see Dr. Derm. Apparently she is concerned that her infant’s perianal warts have some connection to her estranged husband. Dr. Derm agrees that this may be a possibility and reports his findings to the state child welfare bureau. Danielle’s mother has been family friends of Dr. Derm for years — as has her husband. They both have his cell number. 

    Three weeks later, Dr. Derm receives a question about the warts by way of text message from a person whom he assumes to be Danielle’s mother. It is really from the father. Dr. Derm responds by text message and states that he has filed a concern with the state. The mother, although acknowledging that both parents have joint custody of the child, is furious that Dr. Derm texted his actions to the father. She sues Dr. Derm for a HIPAA violation. Dr. Derm has never heard of such a lawsuit. Should he be worried?

    Texting has become so popular because it is instantaneous, convenient and direct. Without appropriate safeguards, though, texting can lead to violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

    Dermatologists are smartphone “super-users.” According to Manhattan Research, more than 81 percent of physicians now use a smartphone to communicate and access medical information. The attractions are clear-cut. Phone applications put libraries full of information at our fingertips. Texting reduces time waiting for our patients and our peers to call back and may expedite and improve patient care.

    Next: Convenience may create privacy concerns


    David J. Goldberg, M.D., J.D.
    Dr. Goldberg is Director of Skin Laser & Surgery Specialists of New York and New Jersey, Director of Mohs Surgery and laser research, ...


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