There are many free email solutions available these days. @Gmail.com, @outlook.com. @yahoo.com amongst others. But did you know that using those emails for PHI (Protected Health Information) exposes you to violating HIPAA guidelines?
Breaking down the HIPAA Guidelines for email
The answer to ‘Is your email HIPAA compliant’ boils down to understanding HIPAA guidelines. HIPAA requires that all PHI be secured reasonably. These ‘reasonable safeguards’ are probably what leads to a lot of confusion on what is and is not adhering to the compliance requirements of HIPAA.
Broadly, there are two areas that you need to know which will impact PHI over emails.
- Encryption security – is your email providing encryption when emails are sent over the internet. Which basically means that if a person has hacked into a server which is use to route the email on internet – can they just view the data with no effort.
- Hosting Security – All emails are obviously stored on a server somewhere. This server is hosted by the company who is running your email service. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon, GoDaddy, Wix etc. Every server has a lot of people who can access that data on the server for general administration reasons. There is a level of security needed (physical,electronic and user level) that is a key requirement to making sure HIPPA safeguards are met. Most importantly (and in addition) – the company who is hosting your email or any PHI – have they signed a Business Associate Agreement with your practice?
But my gmail email is secure!
Yes, many email providers do use TLS (Transportation Layer Security), including Gmail. As long as the person with whom you’re emailing is also using a mail service that also supports TLS — which most major mail providers do — all messages you send through email will be encrypted in this manner.
TLS is a policy you have to setup / enforce with your email (it is not turned on by default, even for GSuite Business users) – make sure you have those turned up to stay compliant.
However, that covers only one aspect of email security if both sender and recipient emails are using TLS (see point 2 above).
To conclude – Is your email HIPPA compliant? The answer could be Yes or No – depending on how it is setup.
Are you using eForms on your website?
eForms are a great feature to add to your practice. Patients can filll up the forms conveniently from their home prior to their appointment. Facilitates better information available to your practice, saves time for the patients and is a all round super convenient feature that a lot of patients are almost expecting out of their clinic of choice.
Just like emails, if your hosting company is not offering a HIPAA compliant hosting and you do not have a BAA with them – you are exposing yourself to a huge HIPAA violation risk.
We can Help!
Practice Tech Solution offers services for hosting your website in a HIPAA compliant environment with BAA’s signed to ease the anxiety of meeting compliance. Our fillable forms solution is HIPAA compliant and offers a cost effective way to implement convenient features for your practice without the risk.