For health tech company owners, creating innovative solutions for the healthcare sector entails more than just creating user-friendly apps. In reality, maintaining compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is necessary to create a successful health-tech company and to secure patients’ sensitive data. Thus, they must operate the HIPAA-compliant email system.
Many organizations have committed themselves to providing HIPAA-compliant email services to protect patient information. These companies support organizations in the healthcare industry by securing patient emails and preventing HIPAA breaches using technology like AI and blockchain.
As part of their end-to-end email encryption solutions, several companies provide automatic spam blocking, virus scanning, email access auditing, and other services. Meanwhile, we’ve compiled the 21 HIPAA-compliant email service providers you should know.
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What is HIPAA-Compliant Email?
A HIPAA-compliant email is an email that is sent and received in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA is a federal law that safeguards the confidentiality and security of protected health information (PHI).
Meanwhile, PHI is any information on a person’s past, present, or potential future physical or mental health status, the provision of healthcare to them, or the payment for such care.
Further, email must be encrypted to be HIPAA-compliant. This requires that the email message and any attached files be jumbled so that only those with the encryption key can read them. Moreover, there are two primary types of email encryption:
- End-to-end encryption: With this type of encryption, the email and any attached files are encrypted before being sent, and decrypted after being received. This indicates that only the sender and the recipient can encrypt and decrypt the email message.
- At-rest encryption: When using this encryption type, the email message and any attached files are encrypted while they are being stored on the email server. So, the email message is only encrypted when it is not being sent or received.
Alongside encryption, a business associate agreement (BAA) between the email service provider (ESP) and the covered entity or business associate sending or receiving the email is a requirement for an email that complies with HIPAA. Meanwhile, a BAA is a legal agreement that guarantees the ESP will safeguard the security and privacy of PHI.
Who Needs a HIPAA-Compliant Email?
Any company handling Protected Health Information (PHI), usually any “individually identifiable health information held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associate” needs an email that complies with HIPAA. This covers healthcare providers (covered entities) and any individual or group that works on their behalf (business associates).
Although internal communications don’t need to use an email in compliance with HIPAA service provider, it is necessary for any external communications beyond your company’s firewall.
Since most covered organizations will work with a third-party business associate at a particular point, every healthcare institution should invest in a HIPAA-compliant email service.
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How To Send a HIPAA-Compliant Email
The steps below will guide you to send emails that comply with HIPAA.
1. Use a HIPAA-compliant email service provider (ESP)
An ESP is an organization that provides email services to companies and businesses. However, all ESPs are not HIPAA-compliant, so it is essential to select a provider that offers HIPAA-compliant email services.
2. Sign a business associate agreement (BAA) with your ESP
A BAA is a contract between a covered entity or business associate and a business associate that specifies the security and privacy requirements for handling PHI.
3. Encrypt all emails that contain PHI
Encryption scrambles the email message and any attachments so that they cannot be read by anyone without the encryption key. There are two main types of email encryption: end-to-end encryption and at-rest encryption, which we have discussed above.
4. Avoid sending PHI in the subject line of emails
The subject line of an email is displayed in plain text, so it is essential to avoid sending PHI in the subject line. If you must send PHI in an email, ensure that you encrypt the email and use a secure subject line.
5. Be cautious about sending PHI to personal email accounts
Personal email accounts are not typically HIPAA-compliant, so you should be cautious about sending PHI to personal email addresses. If you must send PHI to a personal email address, you should encrypt the email.
6. Train your staff on HIPAA email practices
It is important to teach your staff HIPAA-compliant email practices so that they know how to send and receive such emails.
21 HIPAA-Compliant Email Services Providers
The table below shows the 21 HIPAA-compliant email service providers you should know.
|Proton||MD OfficeMail||HIPAA Vault|
|Protected Trust||Mailprotector||Enterprise Guardian (Enguard)|
Practical Examples of How HIPAA-Compliant Email Can Protect Patients
Here are some specific examples of how HIPAA-compliant email can protect patients:
- A medical doctor can use such email to send a patient’s laboratory results to another medical doctor for consultation without bothering about the information being breached.
- A hospital can use an email that complies with HIPAA to send a patient’s discharge instructions to their home without any worries about the information being lost or stolen.
In addition, a health insurance company can use HIPAA-compliant email to send a patient’s Explanation of Benefits (EOB) without fear of the information being seen by unauthorized individuals.
By using an email that complies with HIPAA, healthcare organizations can help to protect their patients’ privacy and security.
How To Choose a HIPAA-Compliant Email Service Provider
Before picking an email service provider that complies with HIPAA, consider the following tips:
- Read reviews of various email service providers to know what other users have to say about their security, reliability, and customer support.
- Request referrals from other healthcare providers or organizations.
- Contact the email service provider and ask about their security features and compliance with HIPAA regulations.
- Get a demo of the email service provider to see if it is easy to use and meets your needs.
- Ensure that the email service provider offers different security features to protect PHI, such as encryption, access controls, and data backup.
- Be sure that the email service provider complies with HIPAA and has a business associate agreement (BAA) in place.
- Pick an email service provider that offers a user-friendly interface and features that make it easy to send and receive emails that comply with HIPAA.
- Select an email service provider that can scale to meet the needs of your business as it grows.
- Choose an email service provider that is affordable and fits your budget.
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HIPAA-compliant email is important for healthcare providers and other organizations that handle protected health information (PHI). Using this type of email service provider can help to protect your patients’ privacy, avoid data breaches, and ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations.