A data breach in the healthcare industry costs approximately $7.13 million per incident. Healthcare has been the leader in data breach costs for ten years. It takes 329 days to fix each incident compared to the average of 280 days.
The HIPAA law was instated to help combat this problem and protect patient records. It has become even more important as healthcare providers rely more on digital methods of care and electronic messages.
Sending a HIPAA compliant email requires following several addressable and necessary requirements. There are several best practices to follow, but one of the best is hiring a managed IT service to help you maintain compliance.
The more you know about the rules, the easier they are to follow. Read our guide to learn which HIPAA requirements relate to email and how you enact security practices now to ensure all your messages are secure.
HIPAA and Emails
Specific HIPAA compliance rules relate to email usage. These include:
- Access controls
- Integrity controls
- Audit controls
- ID validation
- Message transmission protection
- Maintaining audit trails
- Blocking unauthorized changes to patient records
HIPAA’s Security Rule considers data encryption addressable, not mandatory. You only need to implement it if you determine it is necessary after a risk assessment. If you choose another method, you must document and it and explain why you chose it instead.
You must obtain a Business Associate Agreement with any email service you use to send messages that include patient information. You must also receive written consent from patients before emailing medical records and store all messages for at least six years.
HIPAA provides several benefits to healthcare providers. It minimizes unauthorized access, makes it easier to keep track of records, and ensures accountability for all sent messages.
Best HIPAA Compliant Email Practices
Hackers can access information in four different areas. They can intercept it at the sender’s computer, the recipient’s computer, an email server, and the recipient’s email server.
These various access points mean that a single security method isn’t enough to prevent a breach. Maintaining compliance and protecting information requires following a variety of email security practices. They include using a firewall, choosing an email provider, encrypting and storing data, installing and managing software, training and managing employees, and hiring IT help.
Use a Firewall
HIPAA requires all emails containing patient information to be sent behind a firewall. This firewall makes it harder for hackers to intercept any messages you send.
A firewall is the bare minimum form of protection you should implement. It is required by HIPAA and will keep you compliant but will not protect you from all attacks.
Choose the Right Email Provider
You should also use an email platform that requires usernames and passwords to access it. Create the most secure user details you can think of by refusing to share them with anyone and using a combination of letters and numbers that easy to remember but not to guess.
Email and IT service providers fit in the covered business associates category under HIPAA law. This coverage means they must also meet all the requirements. Choosing one who takes security seriously and can help you maintain compliance is important.
Encrypt and Store All Data
The requirement may only be addressable, but you should not avoid email encryption as a way to keep patient data safe. It keeps the message safe by making it impossible to read when intercepted by an unauthorized user.
There are several different forms of encryption to choose from as a healthcare provider. The DES or Data Encryption Standard used to be the most common algorithm, but the AES or Advanced Encryption Standard is considered superior.
End-to-end encryption blocks hackers at every access point, from your computer to every sender your message reaches. It is the best and most complete form, but most traditional email programs do not offer it or only provide it when everyone uses the same system. Find a secure system that everyone can use that encrypts your messages as they travel.
Store messages properly once you no longer need them. All archived emails should be encrypted first. This process makes them searchable and easy to access while also keeping them safe.
Install and Manage Software
Change detection software audits your systems, telling you where your networks’ changes came from and when. This process makes it much easier to fix unauthorized and unnecessary changes from hackers. You can remediate them before they become expensive breaches that ruin your entire system.
If you find you need other software, such as a more robust email platform or database, install it as soon as possible. Be sure to update and manage it well to keep it from becoming updated or facing a breach.
Train and Manage Employees
Nearly half of the business owners said human errors, like malware, vulnerable applications, and improper permissions, configurations, or credentials, lead to a security breach.
Prevent this issue by training your employees in cybersecurity. This training will give them the information they need to reduce the likelihood of errors.
It is also essential to limit employee access. Ensure they can only get into locations and databases when necessary.
Hire Managed IT Service Providers
Staying HIPAA compliant is difficult for businesses of every size, but managed IT service providers lessen the burden. They keep your systems secure, protect you from scams, back up all essential data, and let you focus on other tasks. Hire them to maintain compliance and experience a wide range of different business benefits.
When choosing one, there are several factors to consider. Do your research to compare all the options in your area. Consider which technologies will meet your goals and find companies that specialize in them. Avoid one-person shops and set up several interviews.
Where Can I Get Help?
A HIPAA compliant email must not contain sensitive information like patient details or passwords. It should be encrypted and needs to be stored for six years afterward.
Staying compliant requires the right software. It would be best to choose an encrypter, change detection software, email provider, and more. It is also essential to implement best practices, such as choosing strong passwords and training employees.
Choosing an IT service provider ensures that you get all of these benefits and more. They manage your entire IT department for you, ensuring it remains compliant and efficient.
We are a managed IT service provider in San Jose that helps keep your business running smoothly while staying compliant. Check out our medical office managed IT services to see what we can do for your office today.
Sagacent Technologies offers technology management and support, including proactive/preventative maintenance, onsite and offsite data back-ups, network and security audits, mobility solutions, disaster planning, and emergency business resumption services. The company serves clients of 10 to 150 employees within the Silicon Valley region.