If you are a doctor or a nurse, you are no doubt already well aware of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, usually abbreviated as HIPAA. This policy, originally passed into law in 1996, is designed to protect the rights of patients, particularly where it pertains to their protected health information (PHI). Now that so much data is transferred among medical professionals via email and text message, it is especially important to think about how to encrypt any electronic personal health information (ePHI) that is created, received, used or maintained by you as a HIPAA-covered entity.
The integrity, confidentiality and security of all the ePHI that you store must be protected by appropriate administrative, physical and technical safeguards that you work to put in place. In general terms, that means that you need to make the ePHI available to qualified professionals who need it, while it remains safeguarded against security breaches. If you fail to follow HIPAA rules, your practice could be subject to civil and criminal penalties, including substantial fines. Just as important, your reputation in the medical and professional community as a whole could take a hit.
What can you do to protect yourself and your patients? One thing is certain: You cannot rely on your email service provider or cell phone operating system to keep your messages encrypted in conformance with HIPAA guidelines. Instead, there are several HIPAA-compliant email platforms on the market that allow you to communicate ePHI via text message or email without needing to fear security breaches. Best of all, several of these options are absolutely free. Customer service is available to ensure that you and your staff are fully trained in all of the capabilities and features available to you.
Perhaps the single greatest advantage of these encrypted electronic communication platforms is that they can enable you to claim safe harbor if there is a problem with the security of your ePHI. Safe harbor status eliminates the need for you to notify the federal government and affected parties in the event of a data breach. In order to qualify for this allowance, your data must be indecipherable, unreadable and unusable. Because these secure messaging protocols are HIPAA-compliant, they provide you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your patients’ sensitive data are hidden from the view of un-authorized people and entities.
To learn more about how Everbridge can help your Care Team stay HIPAA-Compliant, visit our HipaaBridge product page: https://www.everbridge.com/products/hipaabridge/.