If your practice sends or receives protected health information via email, it’s important to follow HIPAA compliance rules. Not only will this protect your clients’ privacy, but it could also help you avoid a costly data breach.
Healthcare organizations and their business associates can comply with HIPAA standards by encrypting emails when they’re sent outside of a company’s firewall. This helps ensure that only the intended recipients can read ePHI.
Encryption is one of the most effective ways to protect email communications that contain ePHI (Protected Health Information). NIST recommends using either encryption technologies or secure messaging portals to transmit PHI securely.
A secure email system that encrypts messages and attachments in transit and at rest provides a HIPAA compliant solution. These solutions also have features such as log-offs, auto-delete, and security controls that can prevent unauthorized access to data. These systems can also help ensure that emails and PHI are deleted in the event that they are lost or stolen.
Many healthcare organizations have employees who regularly communicate sensitive information through email or as attachments. These messages may include personal information such as medical diagnoses or insurance details, and they are often sent to patients or colleagues in other locations. These messages are vulnerable to hacking, identity theft, or other security issues, so it’s essential that the email systems used by these healthcare workers are secure and comply with HIPAA regulations.
While HIPAA does not explicitly require email to be encrypted, it does require that PHI is sent over an open network, such as the Internet, in a way that prevents unauthorized access. This requirement can be met through a combination of encryption and other security measures, such as audit control and ID authentication.
The Security Rule does not expressly state that encryption is required to send PHI over an open network, but it does mention a number of requirements that must be met before an email containing PHI can be considered HIPAA compliant. These requirements include a risk assessment, implementing an addressable safeguard, and documenting the process.
Fortunately, there are many HIPAA compliant email services available that have been tested and proven to be secure. These services have signed Business Associate Agreements with their clients, and have experienced customer service teams to help answer questions and keep your organization secure.
Paubox is a great HIPAA compliant email solution that automatically encrypts your emails and attachments. It’s easy to use, requires no setup or configuration, and is compatible with most email providers.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) sets standards for protecting the privacy and security of patient health information, commonly referred to as Protected Health Information (PHI). Businesses that work with PHI must comply with these rules. These include healthcare organizations, as well as any business that provides administrative, financial, legal, consulting and management services to them.
HIPAA requires email containing ePHI to be encrypted in transit. It also requires that PHI be stored in a secure environment, and that access controls are used to ensure only the intended recipients can view it.
To ensure that emails are HIPAA compliant, the sender must be aware of their obligations and how to meet them. They must use encryption to send ePHI, secure messaging services to send ePHI to patients, and they must ensure that their email provider is in compliance with HIPAA.
While encryption is an important step in securing ePHI, it is not always enough. Covered entities must evaluate the threats and vulnerabilities that could affect their security, integrity and availability of ePHI before making a decision about whether to encrypt ePHI or use an alternative safeguard.
Another risk is unauthorized access to ePHI, which can be prevented by using the right technology and ensuring that employees and others who need to access ePHI understand their rights and restrictions. These restrictions can include password protection, a password-protected email, and the ability to use a secure messaging service to send attachments.
When it comes to access controls, the most effective way to manage them is through software that enables organizations to create and maintain a comprehensive and efficient system that integrates with a variety of systems and devices. This streamlined solution reduces the complexity of managing a complex HIPAA compliance posture while saving staff time-to-productivity.
Virtru offers a HIPAA compliant email solution that works with your existing email accounts, providing end-to-end encryption and giving you the ability to communicate securely with anyone. This is especially helpful when dealing with partners and clients who have different portals or email providers.
A HIPAA-compliant email archiving solution can also help organizations fulfill requirements for access, integrity and audit controls. It can also make it easier to produce email in the event of a legal discovery or compliance audit. This can be done quickly and easily with an email archiving solution that is indexed, searchable, and contains all of the required elements.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a law that sets standards for the privacy and security of patients’ personal information. This includes names, addresses, medical records and other identifiable patient information. Businesses that work with PHI must comply with HIPAA rules and regulations to prevent data breaches.
It is important for all staff in healthcare to be trained on how to use a HIPAA compliant email service properly to ensure patient privacy. This includes making sure that the email is encrypted and obtaining patient consent before sending it to them.
In addition, employees should be educated on how to avoid sending ePHI through insecure email channels. This is particularly important in the era of remote work and bring your own device (BYOD) policies.
For example, if you have an intake form that requires patients to sign it, it is best to use a secure email service to send it through a private message center that encrypts emails and offers read receipts and expiration dates. This way, you can ensure that your client’s privacy is protected and that they know they can’t revoke the consent at any time.
If you use an external email server to communicate with your clients, make sure that the email is encrypted and password protected so that your client can’t view it or intercept it. You can also consider signing a Business Associates Agreement (BAA) with your email service provider to prevent data breaches.
One of the most common mistakes made in healthcare is the accidental sending of ePHI through unencrypted email or a sending of it to an individual who does not have authorization to view it. This can be prevented by using a HIPAA compliant email service that encrypts all emails sent to and from your clients, as well as offering encryption methods that meet NIST standards.
Whether you are a therapist or an office manager, a HIPAA compliant email service is necessary to ensure that your clients’ privacy is protected and that you don’t face fines for non-compliance. If you’re ready to start communicating securely with your clients, download our guide today!
Business Associate Agreements
HIPAA-covered entities like healthcare providers and healthcare clearinghouses must have business associate agreements with their business associates to ensure that PHI is protected. These agreements outline the specific duties and responsibilities of each party in terms of using, handling, and disclosing private health information.
These types of contracts are also necessary if the business associates have subcontractors who work on behalf of the business associates or provide services to them. These contracts need to be signed and approved before the subcontractors have access to the ePHI of the Covered Entity.
While there are many examples of BAAs on the internet, each one should be tailored to the unique relationship between the covered entity and its business associates. It’s important to avoid using templates that have been designed for other relationships because these may include provisions that are unnecessary or undesirable for compliance and legal purposes.
A BAA is a contract that outlines each party’s responsibility for PHI and makes them responsible for any breach of this information. In addition, it outlines what steps are needed to prevent PHI from being exposed by the business associates.
It’s vital to make sure that the BAA reflects the SLA and state laws. It should also be reviewed regularly to ensure that it’s up-to-date.
If a covered entity receives credible information that a business associate is violating its obligations under the BAA, it has to take reasonable steps to cure or end the violation (or, if it fails to do so, terminate the BAA).
The penalties for not entering into a BAA can be steep, such as a physicians’ group in Florida that paid $500,000 for failing to sign a BAA with its billing company. The BAA is the key to protecting private health information, so it’s critical that you understand your responsibilities and those of your business associates before signing a BAA.
A good way to draft a BAA is to use a BAA template that has been pre-approved by the Office for Civil Rights or by the Department of Health and Human Services. These templates typically have a template for a single business associate that you can modify to meet your needs.