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Is Skype HIPAA Compliant? If not, what is?

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

Doctor using Skype for telehealth

In recent times we have seen a huge push toward telehealth, so many are wondering, “Is Skype HIPAA compliant?” While Skype is a practical tool that many people have access to, it’s important to consider any regulatory obligations you need to meet before you use it.

If your business collects, stores, transmits or processes electronic protected health information (ePHI), then it is subject to HIPAA regulations. Organizations that process ePHI on behalf of other parties also need to stick within the rules, otherwise they may face heavy fines.

Regardless of whether your organization provides health services through video or it uses video platforms to process ePHI in any other way, it needs to make sure it is using software that abides by the regulations.

Wondering, “Is Skype HIPAA compliant?” is a good starting point, but there are several things to consider before you commit to a video conferencing service.

Do You Need a BAA to Make Skype HIPAA Compliant?

A business associates agreement (BAA) is a contract between your organization and any others that process its data. In essence, these agreements outline how ePHI will be used, what control measures will be in place, and where the responsibilities lie between the two parties.

BAAs are absolutely necessary for HIPAA compliance. Even if your organization and its partner share ePHI with every control and security mechanism imaginable, as well as following all other aspects of the regulations, it would still be violating HIPAA if a signed BAA was not in place.

If your organization is going to be sharing ePHI over a video service, then it needs to be HIPAA-compliant.* However, the only way that it can be HIPAA compliant is if a BAA is in place.

Is Only the Business Version of Skype HIPAA Compliant?

Skype comes in several different versions, but the basic, consumer oriented one is not HIPAA compliant. The only type that offers BAAs and which could be made HIPAA compliant is Skype for Business, which is one of Microsoft Office’s business communication tools.  Note that “Skype for Business” is a completely different service than consumer Skype. 

However, it’s also worth noting that Skype for Business is currently being phased out in favor of Microsoft Teams. If you don’t already have a supported version of Skype for Business, you should look for HIPAA-compliant alternatives instead. Support for Skype for Business Online ends in 2021, while support for Skype for Business Server will be extended until 2025.

With this in mind, it’s probably not worthwhile pursuing any version of Skype for HIPAA compliance. If you use the basic version of Skype, you will be violating the regulations, and even if you can get Microsoft to sign a Skype for Business BAA, you may have to switch your software in 2021 anyway.

HIPAA-Compliant Alternatives to Skype

Considering that Skype for Business doesn’t have much time left and that it is not even the same as “regular Skype,” your organization will be better off finding a HIPAA-compliant alternative. One option is LuxSci’s SecureVideo, which was designed specifically to make it easy to stay within the regulations.

SecureVideo was developed from the ground up with HIPAA compliance in mind, ensuring that it became a practical video calling service that made security and compliance simple. The Zoom for Healthcare-based platform is great for telemedicine and other forms of sharing ePHI.

SecureVideo includes handy features like screen-sharing, file-sharing and virtual clinics, with a capacity of up to 100 participants. This makes LuxSci’s SecureVideo a convenient and compliant alternative to Skype.

 

* During the Covid-19 pandemic, HHS has waived responsibility for breaches through non-compliant video conferencing services, like Skype.  So, while Skype may not be compliant, it is OK to use during the pandemic.  However, as the pandemic subsides and this waiver is lifted, you should have transitioned to a service that is actually HIPAA compliant.

What is HIPAA-compliant Email Marketing?

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Why does your organization need HIPAA-compliant email marketing? It’s simple. Businesses in the healthcare field (and those that process their data) have many of the same needs as other companies. They need to be able to get their messages out, so that they can help more people and drum up more business.

Whether it’s HIPAA-compliant bulk email or emails that are specific to the individual, the messages need to be sent in a way that abides by the regulations, both to protect the privacy of patients, and to avoid legal penalties.

 

Email marketing

Email marketing

When Should You Send HIPAA-compliant Email Marketing?

HIPAA-compliant email marketing is critical whenever your organization could potentially be sending electronic protected health information (ePHI). This is information that is both individually identifiable and relates to someone’s healthcare.

Individually identifiable means information that can be connected with the person. This includes identifiers like their name, address, birth date, email address, social security number and much more. Not only does the definition of ePHI cover people’s past, present and future health condition, but it also includes treatment provisions and billing details.

While anonymous health details or individual identifiers sent by themselves are not covered by the law, when the two are brought together you need to be careful and abide by HIPAA regulations. You will need a HIPAA-compliant email marketing service whenever you send ePHI, and it’s best to err on the safe side even if you think an email may not contain ePHI.

A good example of a borderline case would be a newsletter sent around to all of a clinic’s cancer patients. While the email may contain helpful information, it could also end up breaching the patients’ privacy and HIPAA regulations.

Doctor on laptop

HIPAA emailing

This is because the emails are sent to an address, which is a personal identifier. If the message was only sent out to cancer patients rather than to many different people, then the email could be considered ePHI, since being a recipient of the message would effectively declare that the recipient was a cancer patient.

While this may sound like a stretch, it’s also important to consider that normal email isn’t secure. If a politician or a CEO’s email was intercepted and this information released, it could cause damage to their careers and take some agency away from their lives.

This is just one example of why it’s crucial to err on the safe side and use HIPAA-compliant email marketing for any promotional materials whenever there is even the slightest possibility of sending ePHI.

On the other hand, if you have a HIPAA-compliant email marketing solution that allows for the sending of ePHI in email messages, then you can leverage ePHI to send much more effective messages.  You have a much larger return on your effort. 

HIPAA-compliant Bulk Email Solution

Finding an appropriate service for HIPAA-compliant bulk email marketing can be challenging. Most of the common vendors aren’t HIPAA compliant at all. Others claim compliance, but still require you to not send anything sensitive via email (because they do not actually secure the email messages).  Finding one that can suit your business needs and can also protect the actual email messages is difficult.

Thankfully, LuxSci’s High Volume Secure Email has been designed to cater to both needs. Security and compliance are considered at every step of the way, while still delivering a top-quality product that fits right into your organization’s workflows.

High Volume Transactional Email: Balancing Utility and Marketing

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Your eCommerce customer, Paul, has ordered a special mattress for his bed. He’s put the item into the cart, and paid for it. Now you send a confirmation of purchase email.  But, instead of just a note stating that “we’ve received your payment, and your item has been posted for shipment…” or whatever boilerplate many companies send, you include that message and add photos of three sheets-and-pillowcases products that fit the mattress you just sold him. Paul has his own sheets, but has been thinking about replacing them – now your confirmation email makes him decide to buy them.

All eCommerce companies have to send transactional email, a type of email sent to facilitate an agreed-upon transaction between the sender and the recipient. Common transactional email use cases include doctor appointment reminders, account creation emails, password resets, purchase receipts, account notifications, medical lab results, and social media updates like friend and follower notifications.

What makes transactional email different from ordinary marketing email is that they are sent as part of doing actual business with people – not just chatting with, marketing to, or selling to a customer. In this respect, they are also different from so-called “triggered” emails which may be generated by a number of customer actions – not just transactions.

Transactional email are effective for marketing

Transactional emails are opened eight times more than traditional marketing messages, according to a study by EPSILON.  So it only makes sense to adapt your transactional email for marketing, to take advantage of this unparalleled opportunity to reach your customer with a personalized offer.

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The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule: What it Really Means to Providers and Insurers

Friday, September 15th, 2017

For many providers and insurers, the Breach Notification Rule is still a puzzle waiting for a solution. Partly, this is due to the fact that the rule is complex in itself, and requires attention to every detail. As a matter of fact, we cannot expect to be at our best when someone has stolen our sensitive information.

Do you understand the HIPAA breach notification rule?

To address this problem in the wake of rising health data breaches, we have compiled an easy-to-understand guide to the Breach Notification Rule. Let’s begin the journey with a quick overview of the Breach Notification Rule and its purpose.

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A Complete Guide To HIPAA Law: How It Keeps Your Privacy Protected

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

HIPAA law was made to protect your health data. But increasing data breaches often raise questions. Learn what HIPAA regulations mean to your privacy.

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Back in 1996, the ever-charming president Bill Clinton signed the papers to enact HIPAA law. The law aims to protect patient’s right to privacy through a secured electronic transmission and storage of health data.

It won’t be an exaggeration if we say the HIPAA regulations came into existence at the right time. In fact, this was the same time patient information began to take a leap from papers to computers.

HIPAA Law protects patient privacy

Before we dig deeper to reveal the current status of HIPAA law, it is of paramount importance that we first learn what it means. After reading this article, you will have insight of HIPAA law, related rules, and what you can do to keep your data safe.

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