Federal law requires a HIPAA covered entity to implement policies and procedures to ensure only authorized individuals use and disclose protected health information (PHI) that is necessary to carry out their job responsibilities. An employer required to comply with HIPAA must determine by job category or by individual whether access is permitted to clinical PHI, to financial and insurance PHI or to all PHI. An employer should include PHI access level on job descriptions or create a separate document that lists job categories or individuals with access level to PHI. For example, an office manager may need access to all PHI to perform her job functions and a dental assistant may only need access to clinical PHI to perform her job functions.
Job descriptions allow employers to effectively manage a claim for disability (leave of absence or reasonable accommodation) or workers’ compensation. When an employee returns to work from disability leave (work related or not) a physician must determine whether that employee is physically capable to return to the job. Sending the physician the employee’s written job description that includes the essential functions and physical requirements of the job is the best way to determine whether the employee can perform the duties described with or without limitation, with or without accommodation and for what period. With job descriptions that detail the physical and mental requirements of a position, you can defend decisions regarding accommodation or termination.
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