Contrary to popular belief, standard email is not secure enough for healthcare information, nor is it the most efficient tool for healthcare communication. Implementing HIPAA compliant email requires significant additional work for your practice and is not worth the investment. Before I tell you why, allow me to provide you with some background.

What is HIPAA Compliance?

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) legislation into law to “improve the portability and accountability of health insurance coverage”. Later in 2003, the US Department of Health and Human Services created the first HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules.

The Privacy Rule outlined the proper treatment and sharing of protected health information (PHI), defined as “any information held by a covered entity which concerns health status, the provision of healthcare, or payment for healthcare that can be linked to an individual”.

Today, HIPAA compliance takes measures to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to private health data. Fining noncompliant organizations up to $50,000 per incident and granting individuals the right to pursue legal action help ensure patients medical information is safe at all times. So, maybe you want to add HIPAA compliant email to your practice, but do you need to be HIPAA compliant?

Who does HIPAA apply to?

All healthcare providers who transmit health information are subject to HIPAA regulations. The Privacy Rule covers a provider whether it transmits transactions directly or uses a third party.

Healthcare providers include all “providers of services” (such as institutional providers like hospitals) and “providers of medical or health services” (including non-institutional providers such as physicians, dentists, and other practitioners).

Unfortunately, using electronic technology such as email does not mean a healthcare provider is HIPAA compliant; the transmission of information must adhere to an additional layer of security.

HIPAA compliant email

Email was designed for message delivery, not security. This means using this service for the transaction of medical information does not guarantee HIPAA compliance.

Common email service providers often have automated processes that allow for easier use, but less security. Google, for example, has admitted to allowing other companies to scan and share email information from Gmail. How would your patients feel if they discovered your use of Gmail may be exposing their medical information to third-party developers?

A long series of steps must be followed in order to make standard email HIPAA compliant. From becoming a paid Gmail customer and signing a BAA with Google to getting patient consent and warning patients of insecure email, there are many nuances to making email HIPAA compliant. Not to mention the valuable time spent training staff about your expectations of email communication and the dangers of phishing.

Alternatively, you can download a HIPAA compliant texting application and save yourself time and energy.

HIPAA compliant texting

Email is no longer the standard for communication, so HIPAA compliant email should not be your primary method of communication. Texting is now the go-to form of communication. In fact, people send around 18.1 million text messages every minute in 2019. Moreover, a recent study found 62% of patients prefer text message communication over traditional methods.

There are a variety of HIPAA compliant email alternatives on the market today. Many of these applications take advantage of patents’ desire to text. With a HIPAA compliant texting service, providers download an application and can message patients within minutes; there are no additional hoops to jump through to ensure compliance. Patients can easily contact their provider with questions regarding treatment plans, medication, and overall health. Better yet, they can hear back within minutes, eliminating the need to wait and create a potentially fatal situation.

How OhMD can help your practice

OhMD offers a mobile app and a web-based platform to provide seamless communication between patient and provider, as well as a higher level of security when compared to HIPAA compliant email. Additionally, we offer a variety of tools to improve communication throughout your entire organization.

  • Two-way Messaging: Message patients or colleagues instantly without worrying about security. We encrypt all messages in transit and at rest, ensuring PHI safety at all times.
  • Live Website Chat: Allow patients to set up an appointment or ask a question quickly and easily through our live chat feature.
  • File Delivery: Share X-rays, insurance information, or pictures with patients and colleagues in seconds. OhMD encrypts all shared files, ensuring only authorized user can access the files.
  • Broadcast and Reminder System: Send individual appointment reminders or broadcast a change in your practice to many patients at once.

To learn more about OhMD’s HIPAA compliant messaging solution, schedule a demo today!

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