Understanding HIPAA Compliance in American Sign Language Interpreting

March 1, 2024 No Comments

When relying on American Sign Language interpreting to treat patients who are deaf or hard of hearing, it’s important to ensure compliance with HIPAA. Doing so is the cornerstone of protecting patient confidentiality and maintaining integrity in healthcare communication. As there are many intricacies to HIPAA regulations when it comes to ASL interpreters and healthcare providers, this can pose a challenge.  

What Is HIPAA Compliance?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that implemented national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being shared without the patient’s consent. When it comes to ASL, HIPAA compliance extends to providers and interpreters alike. There are strict protocols to ensure a patient’s privacy and protection.  

Key Aspects of HIPAA Compliance and ASL Interpreting 

1. Confidentiality

Similar to healthcare providers, American Sign Language interpreters are bound by their Professional Code of Ethics. ASL interpreters must refrain from sharing any sensitive information disclosed during sessions. In situations where information needs to be shared with family or others, interpreters can only share information if they are given explicit permission from the patient to do so.  

2. Communication

Healthcare facilities are required to implement secure communication methods and channels for ASL interpretation. This ensures that the patient is protected at all times during appointments. There are a few ways healthcare providers can guarantee safe interpreting sessions. Examples include using encrypted video conferencing platforms and relying on dedicated interpreter services with HIPAA-compliant protocols.  

3. Training

Another aspect of HIPAA compliance and ASL interpreting is training. This might be one of the most important components to ensure providers and interpreters are complying with HIPAA standards. Any ASL interpreter working in a healthcare setting must undergo extensive and specialized training. This training covers HIPAA regulations and confidentiality practices specifically, including the importance of patient privacy.  

4. Consent

Before ASL interpreting sessions begin during healthcare services, patients must be informed of their confidentiality and privacy rights. Healthcare providers are also responsible for receiving patients’ consent for ASL interpreting services while also making sure HIPAA standards are being met by the interpreter.  

5. Documentation 

Documentation helps keep healthcare facilities accountable when providing ASL interpreting. Facilities are responsible for maintaining accurate records of all ASL interpreting sessions. This includes the interpreter’s name and any sensitive information that was disclosed during the session. 


Ways to Ensure HIPAA Compliance in ASL Interpreting

For Medical Institutions  

1. Qualifications

For those operating healthcare facilities, ensure you’re employing qualified American Sign Language interpreters. ASL interpreters should have prior training, medical terminology knowledge, and some expertise in HIPAA standards. 

2. Security

Facilities should use compliant communication platforms and encryption protocols. Continue to reinforce the importance of patient privacy to providers and interpreters alike when appointments require ASL services. Confidentiality and patient safety are always the most important components of these sessions.  

3. Education

Offer education opportunities to your ASL interpreters so they can continue to provide excellent, HIPAA-compliant services to your patients. This ensures patients feel confident and comfortable with their interpreters. You should also perform regular audits with your ASL interpreters. These check-ups can ensure standards are being consistently met and identify any areas that need correction.  

For Patients

As a patient, there are ways to get the most out of your ASL services during healthcare appointments. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek clarification whenever it’s needed. Patients can also request private interpreting rooms or remote ASL interpreting sessions. 

Provide your American Sign Language interpreter with background information, especially if you are seeing a consistent provider. Lastly, avoid bringing along a family member to interpret for you to avoid a conflict of interest during the appointment. 

Complying with HIPAA standards is essential for American Sign Language interpreters to protect patient privacy and uphold the efficacy of healthcare communication. Facilities can provide safeguarded services by adhering to these strict standards, employing qualified ASL interpreters, and providing secure communication channels. 

Healthcare providers can also do their part by making sure these protocols are being followed during ASL sessions and facilitating effective communication practices. The best way to meet HIPAA compliance standards is to ensure all parties are educated on protocols and know what to expect during ASL sessions. 

To work with ASL interpreters who are well-versed in HIPAA, turn to Geneva Worldwide. Call us at 212-255-8400 or toll-free 1-877-GO-GENEVA. You can also request a quote online.