HIPAA Compliance for Doulas

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I have always loved doulas, even before I had a reason to hire one myself. Being a doula--someone who offers support before, during, and after birth--is one of those professions that truly changes the world for the better. If you're a doula and reading this, consider me a fan!

In talking recently with some local doula friends, I discovered that several of them had clients who got insurance reimbursement for doula services. My first thought was that I would love to see this happen way more often, especially with Medicaid so that low income families would have increased access to doula support.

And then I had a question to them--do you know that makes you a HIPAA-covered entity? With the exception of one, who was also an IBCLC, none of them were aware of this. They believed, understandably so, that HIPAA only applies to healthcare providers. As doulas, they are not providing healthcare, but support and information, and this is a critical distinction to make when it comes to the way you practice.

But HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) doesn't have anything to do with what kinds of services are being provided. HIPAA exists as a way to regulate communications with health insurance insurance companies. If you are communicating with a health insurance company about anyone other than yourself, you are by default subject to HIPAA and must comply with the law.

You might be thinking, "But I'm not actually talking to their insurance at all. They pay me and I give them a superbill. They're the ones communicating with the insurance company." Again, this has nothing to do with whether or not you have to comply with HIPAA. In order to give your clients a superbill, you need to obtain an NPI (National Provider Identifier). This number is how insurance companies keep track of you, and anyone with an NPI number is a HIPAA-covered entity.

Please don't freak out--my book is not just for IBCLCs. It will teach you how to apply HIPAA to your practice with concrete, practical, and actionable steps you can take to become compliant. Filled with resources, explanations, and recommendations, it's got everything you need for a HIPAA-compliant, paperless doula practice.

If you feel like you want a personal plan, you can work with me one-on-one to reach your goals. I offer many levels of services, including some budget-friendly options.

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About the Author

Annie Frisbie, MA, IBCLC is the creator of the Lactation Consultant Private Practice Toolkit, a collection of books, resources, legal forms, training manuals, and workbooks aimed at helping private practice lactation consultants build a private practice that’s ethical, profitable, sustainable, and enjoyable.