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 the most effective way to communicate with patients.

Let’s take a look at some background before we dive into why HIPAA compliant texting makes more sense.

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”.

In combination with the Privacy Rule, the Security Rule “establishes national standards to protect individuals’ electronic personal health information that is created, received, used, or maintained by a covered entity”. In essence, it becomes the duty of any covered entity to ensure the security of patient information.

Today, HIPAA compliance takes measures to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to private health information. 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 have a HIPAA compliant email option at your practice. But do you need to be HIPAA compliant?

Who does HIPAA apply to?

All healthcare providers who transmit health information are considered a covered entity. This means that all healthcare providers are subject to HIPAA regulations. The HIPAA Privacy Rule and the Security Rule applies to all providers, health insurance companies and employees, and any entities that handle PHI.

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, email is generally not encrypted, and does not meet the requirements that HIPAA rules set. Rather, the transmission of information must adhere to an additional layer of security set by HIPAA guidelines.

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.

Google, for example, has admitted to allowing other companies to scan and share email information from Gmail. When we use email platforms for personal purposes, this is more so annoying than troubling. But if email is being used to disclose health information, the sharing of this data is highly concerning, and easily becomes a HIPAA violation.

How would your patients feel if they discovered your use of Gmail may be exposing their medical information to third-party developers? They’d likely be pretty unhappy.

Making standard email HIPAA compliant is a long and arduous process. 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 make use of a HIPAA compliant secure messaging platforms and save your healthcare organization time and energy.

Implementing HIPAA compliant texting

Email is no longer the standard for communication, so HIPAA compliant secure email should not be your primary method of patient communication.

Texting is now the go-to form of communication. In fact, in 2019, around 18.1 million text messages were sent every minute. Moreover, a recent study found 62% of patients prefer text message communication over traditional methods.

A HIPAA compliant texting solution takes advantage of patents’ desire to text. With a HIPAA compliant texting service, a healthcare provider would be able to securely message patients within minutes. And the best part is that compliance has been accounted for. This is because platforms, like OhMD, were made with HIPAA requirements in mind.

Patients can easily contact their provider with questions regarding treatment plans, medication, and overall health. Better yet, they can expect to hear back within minutes.

How OhMD can help your healthcare organization

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

  • Two-way Messaging: Use secure messaging to contact patients or colleagues instantly without worrying about security. We use encryption on all messages in transit and at rest, ensuring patient data security 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 several patients at once.
  • Autopilot: Put your most common patient requests on an automated workflow. Give patients the care they need while reducing the manual efforts by staff members.

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