IT'S ALL FREE! Why is a Courier a Conduit?

Why is a courier service for delivering medical records a conduit? Because HIPAA says so.

Actually, the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) says so. It issued a final rule in 2013 to enhance security protection and privacy for health information of individuals. In other words, it clarified the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

Law firms have always sent couriers to deliver medical records, pathology slides, and radiology images to consultants, experts and other law firms. Law firms have also used the US Postal Service and their private counterparts, such as UPS and FedEx, to deliver medical materials.

When HIPAA was enacted, defense law firms were concerned that they would need to have business associates agreements with all the entities that delivered medical records. However, the final rule by the HHS quashes that concern. According to the HHS, law firms can use couriers and mail services for delivery of medical records because they're conduits - they transport information but don't access it. Business associates agreements are not necessary for that reason.

Electronic transmission of medical records is governed under both HIPAA and HITECH rules. Since data transmission is not always secure, the designation as a conduit doesn't apply. When law firms transmit medical information electronically, they must encrypt the information.

What does this mean for legal nurse consultants? LNCs are free to use mail services or couriers as long as all materials are sealed in an envelope that has no personal identifiable information about the patient on it. When LNCs send electronic medical materials by email or via uploading to the internet, the information must be encrypted.

...Katy Jones