Keeping up with HIPAA

Nov. 12, 2013
September 23, 2013. This date was important for dentistry because it was the effective date of the new HIPAA Omnibus Rule.

By Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MED, FADIA, FAADH

September 23, 2013. This date was important for dentistry because it was the effective date of the new HIPAA Omnibus Rule. As a component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) includes provisions that affect dentistry and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996). HITECH not only affects medicine through health information exchanges and electronic medical records, but dentistry is affected under the HIPAA component of the act.

Are you and your team aware of the intricacies of the new rules and regulations? Michelle Kratt, FAADOM, FADIA, has developed a program to assist hygienists and the entire dental team in understanding and remaining in compliance with the new regulations, in her program titled "HIPAA – Keeping you in compliance." Participants will:

  • Review the primary components of HIPAA's privacy and security regulations
  • Discuss how the HITECH Act and the final Omnibus Rule impacts dental practices
  • Assess and review patient information management within a practice
  • Identify risk areas in a practice and examine risk management assessment
  • Develop a plan for closing privacy and security gaps within their practice

Many hygienists believe that HIPAA only affects administrative team members. In reality, it has to do with everyone in the practice. Everyone plays a role in protecting patients' health information, from administrative to clinical, whether a practice is using paper or electronic charting and documentation. As hygienists, we develop close relationships with our patients over the years. As a result, the rules and regulations within HIPAA often fall to the wayside because we feel patients are "family." Yet, if there is a breach of HIPAA information, the doctor is not the only one penalized; the person who caused the breach is also penalized with fines and penalties that are often steep! Do you want to be the one penalized or to cause harm to your practice?


Other articles by DePalma


Although HIPAA is not the most exciting topic for continuing education programs, it is a necessary part of dentistry. Michelle covers an extensive amount of material in her four-plus program through PowerPoint and handouts. Her handouts include sample forms and presentation resources. Since the material can be a bit dry, Michelle likes to move through the audience to encourage audience interaction and discussion. These discussions center on participants and practice issues that are then reviewed by the entire group, and often lead to insightful dialogue. Michelle can present the program in either lecture or webinar format.

Michelle graduated from Southeastern Technical Institute for dental assisting and maintained her CDA for 10 years. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she became unable to assist and transitioned into the role of treatment/financial coordinator in her practice, and eventually became office manager. As office manager, she was hungry for more knowledge of her role and began attending continuing education programs. With her passion for learning, she became a lifetime member of the Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM), and earned Fellowship in the Association in 2010. She also earned Fellowship in the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries (ADIA) in 2011. As office manager, however, she had very little training regarding HIPAA and found that many others also lacked the knowledge.

While most dental team members know about HIPAA, there are many misconceptions and general lack of knowledge regarding its rules and regulations. Michelle began educating herself by participating in as many CE courses as possible. A fantastic mentor, Teresa Duncan, MS, encouraged Michelle to share her knowledge and insights with others, and encouraged her to become a consultant and CE presenter. As a consultant, Michelle provides clients with the tools to stay in compliance, and she has found that many doctors and teams don't understand how HIPAA impacts their practices.

As a CE presenter, Michelle felt that with the new regulations it was time to share her information beyond her clients, so she enrolled in the Health Care Compliance Association's (HCCA) certification program. HCCA is a nonprofit organization for compliance professionals in health care, and Michelle will receive her Certificate in Healthcare Compliance in early 2014.

Besides to the HIPAA program, Michelle's other programs include:

  • Revealing the Mystery Behind Patient Satisfaction
  • Inventory Control Strategies and Solutions
  • ADIA's Practice Management Certification and Implant Coordinator Programs.

Michelle is passionate about dentistry; she has been involved since she was 15! Through the years she has learned that there is so much the profession offers. Beyond dentistry, Michelle loves reading, watching football and baseball (especially the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox), going on cruises, and spending time with her family. As a dedicated member of AADOM, Michelle created and organizes a study club for Massachusetts's office managers and team members that meets several times a year (hygienists are always welcome). From her consulting and CE programs, Michelle has learned that team members and doctors get so wrapped up in the day-to-day operations of the dental practice that they often forget to educate themselves on new policies, systems, and materials. This tunnel vision causes practices to be left behind in the contemporary dental world, and patients are the ones who ultimately suffer.

Allowing audiences to become actively involved in her programs while knowing that she is making a difference in practices and lives inspires Michelle to be the best she can be. She encourages all dental professionals to grow in their knowledge and understanding of not only HIPAA, but other avenues of dentistry and dental hygiene as well. I'm grateful to be able to call Michelle a friend.

For more information about Michelle and her programs, contact her at [email protected].

Thought for the month:
A Happy Thanksgiving to all. I give thanks for all of the blessings I have experienced this year.

"Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving." -- W.T. Purkiser RDH

This month's INeedCE column is "Building a Better Hygiene Department for Patient Care and Profitability." Use code AM1113 for 50% off the course. Regular cost is $49; $24.50 after discount.

Building a Better Hygiene Department for Patient Care and Profitability

The practice of dental hygiene has existed since 1913, when the term dental hygienist was first coined, and since 1914, when Dr. Alfred Fones graduated his first class of 27 hygienists in Bridgeport, Conn. Today, 75.9% of all dental general practitioners employ a hygienist. The hygienist of today has come a long way since Dr. Fones' school. They must excel not only clinically, but also in the areas of business skills and communication. A productive and profitable hygiene department is priceless to a dental practice. It is the engine that drives the practice, and it can maintain and propel it to success. This course will outline how to create and maintain a highly functioning dental hygiene department that supports practice protocols, delivers outstanding patient care, and is profitable.

ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at [email protected].

More RDH Articles
Past RDH Issues