When looking at the regulations that your healthcare translations need to comply with, perhaps the most important one to consider is The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA prohibits the unauthorized sharing of medical records and personally identifiable information without patient consent, which may seem to complicate the translation process as it relates to medical records and forms. However, if your hospital or health insurance organization chooses a Language Services Provider (LSP) that values privacy and clarity equally, compliance shouldn’t be a major concern. Having prior knowledge of how HIPAA and translation projects function can streamline the translation process for your healthcare organization.

HIPAA and Translation: Your translators

Because they are not employed by the organization using their services, translators are considered business associates under HIPAA legislation. Patient information can only be shared with a business associate for a specific purpose. This purpose needs to be clearly stated in a business contract between your LSP and your healthcare organization. 

HIPAA and Translation: Your LSP’s responsibilities

To fully comply with HIPAA regulations, your LSP should incorporate the following:

  • Secure connections: Documents are transmitted only through a secure https connection
  • Data encryption: All documents are automatically encrypted 
  • Agreements: Professional translators have signed Business Associate and Non-Disclosure agreements.
  • Certifications: Translators are reputable members of professional organizations, such as the American Translators Association, that have and enforce a strict Code of Professional Conduct and business practices.
  • Process: Open process, reviewed by client representatives.
  • Contingencies: An active policy and process for backing up data and emergency contingency planning
  • Transparent security policies: Your LSP should be open to conducting audits with your organization in an effort to improve compliance.

HIPAA and Translation: Protected Health Information (PHI)

Under HIPAA, PHI is information that identifies an individual and relates to the following:

  • The individual’s past, present, or future physical or mental health
  • The provision of healthcare to the individual
  • The past, present, or future payment for health care
  • The patient’s personally identifiable information (PII) including social security number, date of birth, policy number, member number and address 

This patient information is often shared during the delivery of translation services and should be handled carefully by vendors.

HIPAA and Translation: The documents

Before hiring an LSP, your organization should complete or consider the following things in regards to HIPAA and translation projects.

  • Assess the vendor’s privacy risk.
  • Conduct a privacy impact assessment of any vendor or contractor that provides language access services.
  • Create guidelines regarding who will have access to what information as part of the vendor agreement.
  • Sign contracts outlining the business relationship between the healthcare organization and the vendor.
  • Set terms to ensure that vendors meet HIPAA and translation regulatory standards.

HIPAA and Translation: Training

Your LSP should show that its staff members are trained in HIPAA compliance, including how to manage sensitive information, recognize PHI, and protect the privacy of your patients.

The most important step your organization can take to ensure HIPAA compliance and clear communication is to hire a professional translation company with experience in the healthcare field. Make sure to assess potential vendors carefully and continually monitor their adherence to the laws. 

HIPAA and translation projects can coexist harmoniously if you know how to effectively choose an LSP who maintains regulatory compliance. If you want to start a new HIPAA-compliant translation project, we can help. Give us a call at 530-750-2040, or request a free quote today. 

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