When it comes to the profession of massage therapy and the federal regulations outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) there are several thorny problems.
First, there is the question of whether LMTs meet the definition of a “covered entity” according to HIPAA. How a massage business is run plays into that question, particularly for LMTs who are not sure if they meet the definition of a covered entity. The best way to answer those kinds of questions is to meet with an attorney who specializes in HIPAA.
The More You Know
If you are simply considering taking a continuing education home study class to learn more about HIPAA, it’s probably a good idea for a few reasons:
- The vast number of work settings and collaborative opportunities available to LMTs means that you may be working with others who are bound by HIPAA or in a setting where you are required to follow the regulations set forth in HIPAA. Even though it is highly likely that HIPAA training would be provided, a deeper understanding of the overlap and possible conflicts between the ethics of massage therapy and HIPAA regulations could be beneficial.
- A course on HIPAA will provide you with the knowledge of exactly what client data is protected and what is not. Is it OK to store your clients’ phone numbers on your cell phone so you can text them appointment reminders? If you work for someone else, is it OK download client information? A continuing education home study course on HIPAA will give you the opportunity to find out the answers to those kinds of questions, as well as others that come up in your day-to-day work.
- A refresher is always a good idea. Required courses on legal issues can be horribly boring, especially if the course is taken before you are actually practicing and dealing with those issues as a matter of your daily life. Taking a home study course later, when you have a better understanding of how the material impacts your career, could be helpful.
There are many other reasons, but those three are certainly noteworthy. Sometimes continuing education might seem burdensome, but when you can use the courses to gain knowledge that will protect your career, improve your business and generally improve your expertise, the burden is lighter.
Being able to complete a course through home study can be a benefit or a drawback, depending on your own personality, your schedule, the course topic and many other factors. HIPAA is a particularly good topic for home study because you can break it into smaller pieces and learn at a pace that is comfortable for you. If legal jargon is difficult, you can take the time you need to understand.
A Matter of Debate
Interestingly, there is debate among the professional community as to whether or not all massage therapists should be required to abide by the regulations of HIPAA. Some think it would raise the standards and gain more respect for the profession as a whole. Others are of the opinion that it would simply make it impossible for some people to practice due to the expense related to following the regulations.
At the very least, it can’t hurt to have a clear understanding of the law, and a home study course can help you with that goal.