The Facts About HIPAA Compliance and Employee Vaccination Records
After hearing recent claims that answering personal questions about vaccination status violates HIPAA, you may feel concerned that your company policy on vaccination records fails to comply with the law. Are you as an employer legally allowed to request such records under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act? And if it is in fact legal, how can you have total confidence you are acting in compliance with privacy regulations protecting your employees (and yourself)?
Here are a few key things to keep in mind as you ensure your company’s policies and activities surrounding health records are fully compliant.
What HIPAA Is (and Isn’t)
It’s true that HIPAA covers protected health information (PHI), which includes vaccination records. But it actually doesn’t protect individuals from being asked to reveal their health records. It also doesn’t prevent employers from requiring employee vaccination.
Rather, it prohibits healthcare organizations and their business associates from revealing patient records to unauthorized parties without the patient’s permission. Businesses that are not in healthcare and do not qualify as “business associates” are not actually covered by HIPAA regulations at all. And generally speaking, these requirements regulate patient records – not employee records.
That said, when in doubt, it is safer to keep records that are HIPAA compliant. Beyond this, other privacy laws (such as the Americans with Disabilities Act) still require careful handling of employee health data.
Vaccine records, like other sensitive employee data, should be treated as protected information regardless of HIPAA coverage. The ADA classifies these records as confidential medical records and requires strict compliance with ADA laws when storing them.
A compliant records system must:
- Store employee medical information securely and separately from personnel files
- Keep those medical records strictly confidential (even if not about a disability)
- Secure the records from unauthorized access
Any system that falls within HIPAA compliance likely will also comply with ADA regulations (but check for yourself to be certain.)
Training Employees in Compliance Regulations
The best records system in the world still needs the support of properly-trained employees. A single poorly trained person with the right access can wreak havoc on the confidentiality of sensitive information. To this end, proper training – to include regular refreshers and updates as regulations change – is paramount.
A well-organized training system allows you to:
- Centralize learning materials
- Easily facilitate reminders and follow-ups
- See and manage team workflows
- Know who has completed assigned tasks
Nothing is left to chance and the collaboration process is painless. It ensures your training strategy is well-controlled and planned, so that nothing falls between the cracks and the people with access to sensitive data know how to properly handle it.
This bears repeating: no system for storing confidential data is secure until everyone with access is well-versed in their compliance responsibilities.
How OnTask Helps with Vaccine Record-Keeping
- Create customized workflows to collect vaccine information
- Automate employee follow-ups based on questionnaire responses
- Track employee form completion from a dashboard
- Customize compliance training assignments and automate reminders
It’s the definition of elegance: the same tool that simplifies your records-keeping and training also ensures it remains compliant at all times.
Implementing a Compliant, Efficient, and Human-Centered Vaccination Policy
Although employee and patient privacy laws such as HIPAA or the ADA must be carefully considered, it is entirely possible to implement a strong vaccination policy while fully respecting them.
By adopting a secure, well-organized system and ensuring your teams’ compliance training is up-to-date, you go beyond merely meeting minimum requirements. You also work to ensure potentially nervous employees can feel respected and secure in sharing sensitive personal health data with the company. This can go a long way in getting everyone on-board in the company and minimizing resistance to the policy.
Of course, technological solutions are only as good as the relationships they facilitate. At a human level, the best way to reduce friction over sensitive policy changes is to carefully focus on reciprocal, truly responsive relationships. In being intentionally communicative and responsive, leadership can greatly support a healthy, transparent work culture and actively build trust. This is imperative to an effective COVID safety policy. And though not a replacement for the human side of relationships, OnTask can help with this, too.
Through workflow automation, it offers teams one more tool to facilitate crucial conversations and feedback surrounding difficult new policies.
Need help building your employee vaccination program? Contact us.