Dealing with COVID-19 is stressful enough without also worrying about your protected health information (PHI) being compromised.
That’s why every time PubSEG meets with a prospective client about our contact tracing and disease case management services, one of questions we’re inevitably asked is: Are you HIPAA-compliant?
We’re proud to say the answer has always been yes.
“Protecting PHI positions us as reliable and trustworthy to our clients, and our clients’ clients—the people we’re talking to and contact tracing,” says Harley Myers, PubSEG’s Manager of Operations. “We get questions all the time: ‘Who are you?’ ‘Why are you calling?’ They really want to know, and they want to know their information is protected.”
Compliance is something PubSEG has always taken very seriously. So much has changed since COVID-19 first shook up the country three years ago—the arrival of the vaccine, the emergence of new variants, ever-evolving health and safety protocols, new testing procedures, public perception of the virus, the list goes on and on. But through it all, the need to protect people’s privacy has remained a constant and a top priority for the entire PubSEG team.
Here are two common contact tracing mistakes that PubSEG makes sure to avoid:
Telling someone the name of the person who exposed them to COVID: “People don’t want that information shared,” says Senior VP of Operations Dawn Stolte. “They don’t want to be blamed for someone else having to isolate. If they want to tell someone they were the person who gave them COVID, that’s fine, but that’s up to them.”
Failure to identify yourself properly on the phone: “There’s a whole process we have to make sure we’re following when we’re on the phone with people,” Harley says.
If something were to happen, PubSEG has the tools in place to address the issue immediately. But we take every step possible to avoid any such scenarios.
“Most of our preventatives are preemptive,” Harley says. “It has to be when you’re dealing with healthcare and healthcare-related matters.”
For each client program, PubSEG’s HIPAA compliancy begins with the scripting we prepare for phone calls and emails. We collaborate with clients during the onboarding process, but much of the compliancy work is handled internally through continuous training.
“From an operations standpoint, this whole year our main focus is on HIPAA compliancy and how we can continue to build on that and what kind of resources we can provide to contact tracers to keep HIPAA and protection of PHI at the forefront of everyone’s minds,” Harley says. “Our clients trust us to be compliant, and it’s up to us to maintain that trust. We do that through continued up-training and continuing to audit and assess our scripting and processes to make sure we’re being as HIPAA compliant as possible.”
PubSEG works closely with our partner HR company, as well as an outside compliance firm, to sustain this compliance. All of our employees are certified by the compliance firm through an annual exam, although Harley is looking to implement the certification process more frequently.
“We try to provide QA in live time, helping us make sure our contact tracers are always staying in line with HIPAA compliance, even when there are spikes in cases and things get really busy,” says Supervisor Fran Hatcher, who oversees two of PubSEG’s largest clients. “The goal is always 100% accuracy.”
Adding to the complex compliance requirements is the fact that not all client programs are the same. Certain issues are far more likely to surface on certain programs (based on factors such as local regulations), sometimes forcing us to design extremely specific compliance processes.
But while the specific protocols might change from program to program, one thing that never changes is PubSEG’s commitment to protecting the privacy of every person we come in contact with.
“Compliance gives us instant credibility and is something we take very seriously,” Dawn says. “Giving people wrong information, talking to the wrong people, or sharing people’s personal information are all examples of things we can’t allow to happen.”
If you’d like to learn how we can help you with your disease case investigation needs, give us a call at 856-240-8117 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We promise your private information is always safe with us.