If you operate in the healthcare sector, you should always be wary of your organization’s electronic protected health information (ePHI). One of the most complicated situations involves email marketing, because carelessly sent messages can easily lead to HIPAA violations and their costly ramifications.
Because of this danger, you should only send ePHI in your marketing messages under certain conditions:
When Using a HIPAA-compliant Email Marketing Service
If you want to send ePHI in your marketing emails, you will need a HIPAA-compliant marketing service. If you send ePHI through Mailchimp or its equivalents, the messages won’t be encrypted or compliant with the regulations.
Because email is so inherently insecure by nature, using a normal email marketing service makes it easy for hackers to access ePHI in messages. They can intercept the messages, then use the data to commit a range of crimes.
The result? Sending ePHI over one of these services can lead to your organization violating the privacy of everyone whose sensitive data was sent. Not only is this a shocking breach of their rights, but it leaves you open to damages from fraud, extortion and other crimes.
Each instance/email also counts as a HIPAA violation for your company. These can result in huge fines, disruption to business, harm to your company’s reputation and even jail time in the most egregious offenses.
Unless your company is hellbent on its own destruction, it must use a HIPAA-compliant email marketing service when sending ePHI in its messages.
The Features of a HIPAA-compliant Email Marketing Service
If you need to send ePHI in your marketing emails, LuxSci’s HIPAA-compliant Secure Marketing tool is the perfect fit. It combines a state-of-the-art marketing interface with all of the necessary HIPAA-compliant measures to safely send ePHI.
With easy-to-use and beautiful design templates, A/B testing, analytics tools and everything else you need to run a successful marketing campaign, Secure Marketing is an excellent solution for organizations in the health industry.
Protect Your ePHI with Opt-out Encryption
If you plan to regularly send ePHI, make sure you use the opt-out encryption feature in our HIPAA-compliant Secure Marketing service. When you use the opt-out feature to set up encryption by default, then the worst case scenario is that someone sends a message that’s needlessly encrypted. Sure, it might be a little more difficult for the recipient to access, or you might have to send through an unencrypted version as well, but no major damage is done.
Now, compare this to the opposite scenario. Let’s say that one of your staff members creates an email that includes ePHI – perhaps it’s some test results from a patient’s latest psychiatric evaluation. In a moment of forgetfulness, the employee forgets to encrypt the message before they send it.
If it hasn’t been encrypted, then the patient’s family members could read it on an unlocked device. Hackers could also intercept it and blackmail the person, or use the sensitive data for identity theft and other types of fraud.
The point is that such a simple mistake can easily become a HIPAA violation, something that could have disastrous effects for the individual, as well as the company responsible. It’s pretty clear that this outcome is far worse than sending a needlessly encrypted message.
When Should You Avoid Sending ePHI in Marketing Emails?
You shouldn’t send ePHI in any situation where there isn’t a serious benefit to your patients or your company. Even though ePHI can certainly be secured with tools like LuxSci’s Secure Marketing, why bother sending out such sensitive data for no major gain?
Of course, it goes without saying that you should also avoid sending ePHI in your marketing emails if you don’t have the appropriate HIPAA-compliant tools. If you really need to send ePHI in your messages, subscribe to a suitable service that gives you the business advantages of email marketing campaigns, without having to constantly worry about violations.