If you’re reading this, you may have found yourself at home in your PJs, surrounded by dirty dishes, and utterly confused as to how you’re supposed to juggle home demands with work demands—and stay HIPAA-compliant in the process.
Believe it or not, it is possible to have a productive—and compliant—day at home, even if you’re sharing a space with kids, pets, and your partner. Our team has been successfully working remotely for years, and we’re here to lend our support and offer best practices.
Before we get into compliance recommendations, we thought it’d be helpful to first provide tips on how to move from the clinic to a home office.
Establish a morning routine
Or, better yet, follow the same routine you followed when you were going to the clinic.
Create a dedicated working space and office hours
When working from home, it’s easy to blur the boundaries between work-life and home-life. By establishing structure ahead of time, you’ll be better equipped to handle the day with ease.
Strategies for working with kids at home
Having kids at home is an additional challenge, but there are several strategies that can help.
Make friends with technology
It is important to find video conferencing tools that are HIPAA-compliant. Luckily, there are a host of software options like SimplePractice or Clocktree that can help you securely manage scheduling, video conferencing, messaging, document sharing, and even billing. For calling or texting patients, consider using an app like Spruce to ensure everything stays secure.
Before you sign up for anything, make sure you consult with your hospital system to see what their software, or other requirements, are for working and communicating with patients remotely. You might be surprised to find that they already have systems and policies in place that you can implement too.
If video conferencing seems daunting (or if you don’t have a tidy space at home), you can always take phone calls. Just make sure you’re the only person in the room, and always ask the patient if there’s anyone else on their end so you know who you’re talking to.
Take paperless pedigrees & place HIPAA-compliant orders from home
Technology can help you stay compliant in other ways beyond meeting with patients. For example, Invitae’s Family History Tool and CancerGeneConnect allow you to securely build, modify, share, and save patient pedigrees in your web browser or on an iPad, and can even help you place genetic testing orders more quickly. Whether you choose to use Invitae’s tools, or you prefer another solution, it’s important to keep your pedigrees off paper and securely online. Also, always be sure to verify with your organization before putting PHI in anything other than their own EMR. You can also order tests online and have a saliva collection kit shipped directly to your patients; learn more here.
Rethink the way you use visual aids
If you’re using video conferencing, you can share visual aids with patients by sharing your screen. But if you’re planning to take phone calls instead, you may want to consider sending materials to your patients either ahead of time or after the call. However, after many years of providing care through telegenetics, we can reassure you that most concepts can be effectively communicated to patients verbally.
Avoid taking notes on paper (or get a paper shredder)
Be mindful of papers, files, and charts. Don’t write things down on paper unless you can be diligent about shredding it as soon as you’ve transcribed the information to your patient’s secure digital file. Not all shredders are created equal. Ask your institution for guidance about shredder specifications.
Actively reach out to colleagues, so you don’t feel isolated.They’re likely experiencing a similar situation and may be able to share helpful tips and stories. Some of our favorite ideas for staying in touch include:
Be kind to yourself
Transitions take time. You might not get as much done in the day as you used to, and that’s okay. Be kind to yourself when the day feels rocky, and celebrate when things go smoothly. The most important thing is that you’re doing the best you can in these unprecedented times. Everyone understands this situation is unique and we’re all experiencing similar challenges.