Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Each listing or profile page on MarijuanaDoctors.com is a description of the medical services provided by the individual practice with the added functionality for patients to request an appointment with a physician certified to recommend medical marijuana. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) clearly states that a description of medical services and its benefits is NOT considered marketing, advertising, or promotion in the HIPAA Privacy Rule. A practice is permitted to inform the general public of its services including medical marijuana evaluations and not being able to do so would be an infringement upon the freedom of speech.
Medical professionals must follow federal and state guidelines to ensure they practice with their patients’ safety in mind. When we think of these laws, medical malpractice rules come to mind. But, doctors need to consider their patients’ information security, as well. That’s why we have acts like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). To strengthen the protections offered by HIPAA, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was signed in 2009.
Parts of the HITECH Act oversee online marketing for medical professionals. As a doctor who uses or wants to use our directory, you can enter our database without violating HITECH.
HIPAA and the HITECH Act protect the privacy of patients by controlling how medical professionals and other entities can handle their private medical information. Government officials created HIPAA to adapt to technological advances in healthcare, with a focus on electronic records. Established as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the HITECH Act added more regulations on topics like violation categories and marketing. One essential addition was a rule stating professionals couldn’t sell patient health information.
When the HITECH Act came into place, it established new, harsher penalties for HIPAA offenders. Fines now range from $100 to $50,000 per violation. The amount depends on the knowledge and intent of the culprit. This money then goes toward future HIPAA and HITECH Act enforcement. Under the HITECH Act, a penalty can go into one of four categories with increasing fine minimums.
If the culprit doesn’t willfully and knowingly disclose protected information, they only receive punishment under the lowest penalty tier. If the violation isn’t due to willful neglect, the offender can avoid penalties by making a correction within 30 days.
To prevent professionals from profiting from private information, the HITECH Act and HIPAA include rules governing marketing. Under HIPAA, you must receive written permission from a patient before using their records for marketing purposes. HIPAA considers something to be marketing when you communicate that someone should buy or use a product or service. It also defines marketing as selling patient information to another entity to help them promote their products or services. The HITECH Act added regulations to cover more situations where the offender earns money in exchange for information, but similar general rules apply.
As a medical professional, you can sign up for a MarijuanaDoctors.com plan that lets you create a listing for your practice. This listing includes information about your services, costs, hours of operation and more. Do these pages count as marketing under the HITECH Act and HIPAA? They don’t for two reasons:
On another note, the services we offer to patients are entirely compliant with HIPAA and the HITECH Act. We make sure to get permission from the patient when we need to use their information and keep their records 100% private.
As a doctor who will recommend medical marijuana, you work with private documents that other medical professionals don’t. To stay HIPAA and HITECH Act compliant, remember to:
If you’re a medical professional who advises dispensary patients, you may wonder where you stand under marketing laws. Your dispensary can advertise products as long as they follow federal guidelines. Since the United States government considers marijuana a controlled substance, this marketing is generally limited to online and in-person promotion.
But, can you legally promote your services as a medical consultant? That’s a little more unclear. We recommend getting advice from a marijuana-friendly lawyer who understands cannabis laws. As a starting point for your search, try NORML’s directory. Not all members of the directory specialize in marijuana law, but they may be able to direct you to a lawyer who does.
At MarijuanaDoctors.com, we aspire to be your number one resource for medicinal cannabis information. Check out some of our other resources for doctors who work with medical marijuana:
Medical professionals can sign up for a MarijuanaDoctors.com account to add a listing to our extensive directory. Members also receive patient pre-screenings, automated recommendation verification and other resources to make working with medicinal cannabis simpler. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch using our online contact form. We can’t wait to work with you!