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Posts Tagged ‘phi’

How Is HIPAA-Compliant Email Different from Secure Email?

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

Protected health information (PHI) is heavily regulated under HIPAA, but the exact details can be confusing. The regulations are designed to keep everyone’s private information safe, but they also put a significant amount of responsibility on businesses.

HIPAA regulations apply to just about every aspect of a person’s medical information, including their transit, storage and security. Because email is such an important and extensively-used form of communication, HIPAA regulations apply to it as well.

HIPAA-compliant email vs secure email

Some may think that secure and encrypted email is all you need to keep PHI safe and emails compliant. The reality is that HIPAA email regulations go above and beyond standard secure email. To protect your business, you need to make sure that your email provider is HIPAA-compliant, not just secure.

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What is HIPAA-compliant Email Marketing?

Monday, February 27th, 2017

To achieve HIPPA-compliant email marketing, you need to satisfy two objectives. First, you need to understand the fundamentals of email marketing. Second, you need to execute your email marketing activities within HIPPA’s requirements and restrictions.

HIPAA-compliant email marketing

It’s easy to make a mistake with HIPAA-compliant email marketing, especially when you’re in a rush.

Picture this:

You leave your clinic early on a Thursday afternoon to head off on a vacation. Before you go, you ask your office manager to send off an email blast. You were just certified on a new procedure and you know at least 200 patients in your files would likely benefit from it. A simple message inviting them to the office for a consultation next week is the perfect next step. Your office manager takes some quick notes and promises to send off the note tomorrow. And off you go for a weekend of golf at Pebble Beach.

On your way home, you check your email. You see an angry email from a patient and start reading. It turns out that you’ve violated some arcane HIPAA rules… Even worse, that patient’s sister is an attorney who has promised to call you tomorrow. You’re pretty sure you’ve done nothing wrong but you’re nervous on the flight home.

This situation could have been prevented if your office manager had asked you one simple question:

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Is sharing my patient list with a marketing company OK under HIPAA?

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

We received this questions via Ask Erik from the head of a Dental Practice (who wished to remain anonymous):

“I want to create a Refer-a-Friend program, for a dental practice, that will be managed by a third party marketing agency.  The third party needs only my patient names and address to do an on-going e-mail campaign, no PHI will be given to the third party — just name and e-mail address.

Because I am ‘Marketing” to my own list, and I am NOT marketing any third party products, and I am not receiving any third party payment for anything:

* Am I in any HIPAA danger? (No PHI is ever exchanged, and I am NOT marketing anyone else’s product.)

* Because my PHI is de-identified from the associated names and e-mail addresses, is it OK for me to hand over my patient mail list to my marketing agency (being very careful of course to include NO PHI)?

* Does HIPAA specifically prevent me from marketing my own products to my patient list? I know that marketing other people’s products to my list will require prior consent. But, marketing my own Refer-a-Friend program… how is that a violation?

NOTE: PHI is defined as: “(A) is created or received by a health care provider, health plan, public health authority, employer, life insurer, school or university, or health care clearinghouse; and (B) relates to the past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition of any individual, the provision of health care to an individual, or the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to an individual.”

So, is a mail list of my patients’ names and e-mail addresses considered to be PHI (if it contains no associated PHI as defined above)? The definition above would say NO. The definition above states that it is ONLY the health information about a patient — NOT the patient’s name and e-mail addresses themselves.

Also, on the mail list for the Refer-a-Friend marketing program, there will be names other than patients, probably about 5% are not patients. Does this influence the phi/non-phi question?

This is a very important distinction. Having clarity on this question could free up a lot of us to proceed with e-mail marketing.

If a mailing list, for a dentist, that contains 95% patients and 5% non-patients, and NO health information (just names and addresses)… is it considered PHI?”

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Does HIPAA really permit reminding patients to pick up their prescriptions?

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

We get calls and text messages from pharmacies like CVS, reminding us that it is time to pick up and/or renew our prescriptions for drugs or other medical items. When you think about HIPAA, this is confusing. In many cases, these reminders constitute Protected Health Information (PHI) … so is this really allowed?

The default answer of “it must be OK if CVS is doing it” is naive as it loses all of the context about what is and is not permitted and does not shed any insight into when and how other organizations may similarly inform or remind patients of things such as prescriptions and appointments.

Is it really PHI?

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Is Skype HIPAA Compliant? If not, what is?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Revision 2016:  Since the article was published, Microsoft has started offering a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) for Office 365 Online of which Skype is a part.  While online documentation is very unclear, Microsoft has indicated that Skype is covered under this BAA and thus use of Skype can be “HIPAA compliant” as long as you have “Skype for Business” and the signed BAA with Microsoft.

However, Skype lacks many controls and features that are actually required for an organization to be compliant, such as access auditing, backups, and breach reporting.  This makes it unclear what the usefulness of its being “covered” under Microsoft’s BAA really is.  Microsoft is really just leaving it up to the Skype user to determine if the use of Skype is appropriate without taking any steps to ensure that use of Skype really could be compliant.  Additionally, even though Skype is covered under Microsoft’s BAA, the regular, free Skype used by most people is not covered.  So, for example, a therapist should under no circumstances have a session with a patient, where that patient is using the regular free Skype program.

Original Article Content:

In conjunction with their use of LuxSci HIPAA-compliant email and web hosting services, many small health care practices often ask us about use of Skype and other video conferencing software for communicating with patients over the Internet.

Is it possible to be HIPAA compliant while using Skype for sending PHI via chat, voice, and/or video?  Why?  Everyone else is doing it … shouldn’t I thus be able to as well?

The short answer is “no – don’t use Skype” and “there are other options available that offer this capability and allow you to be HIPAA compliant in the process.”  For the long answer, read on.

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Opt-In Email Encryption is too Risky for HIPAA Compliance

Monday, April 13th, 2015

A majority of companies and hospitals that offer email encryption for HIPAA compliance allow senders to “opt in” to encryption on a message-by-message basis.  E.g. if the user “does nothing special” then the email will be sent in the normal/insecure manner of email in general.  If the sender explicitly checks a box or adds some special content to the body or subject of the message, then it is encrypted and HIPAA-compliant.

Opt-in encryption is desirable as it is “easy” … end users don’t want any extra work and don’t want encryption requirements to bog them down, especially if most of their messages do not contain PHI.  It is “good for usability” and thus easy to sell.

However, opt-in encryption is a very bad idea with the inception of the HIPAA Omnibus rule.  Opt-in  imposes a large amount of risk on an organization, which grows exponentially with the size of the organization.

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Interview with Mason Rothert, CEO of Mediprocity our partner for SecureChat

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Mason Rothert is the CEO of Mediprocity, the company that we have partnered with and worked closely with to provide LuxSci SecureChat.

Mason Rothert & Nicholas Magers conceived Mediprocity while working together in the healthcare field calling on physician offices and healthcare provider centers. At the time, Mason Rothert was working as V.P. of Sales and Technology for a management company overseeing long-term care facilities and a full range therapy company. Nicholas Magers was finishing up his MBA at USC and working for a pulmonary company as a sales director. They decided to combine forces in order to solve the fragmentation of communication amongst covered entities and business associates in healthcare. They would focus on the new technologies available as well as the growing need to encrypt patient health information in order to prevent data breaches.

Mediprocity begin in 2009 as a social network for healthcare.  The Company culture has always been to be physician-centric and to help improve communications.  As smartphone and text messaging popularity grew rapidly, it was clear in 2010 that Mediprocity needed to become a simple secure solution for HIPAA-compliant communication.  They set out to combine the best elements of instant messaging, SMS text, and Email.

LuxSci has integrated the Mediprocity secure communications product into its offering and is continuing to work closely with them to integrate the SecureChat service more and more tightly with LuxSci’s SecureLine secure emailing offerings.

Mason has agreed to this interview so that we can answer many common SecureChat-related questions for you.

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HIPAA Compliance Checklist: What You Need To Do

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

LuxSci provides HIPAA-compliant services and must itself maintain HIPAA-compliant business operations in order to comply with HIPAA HITECH and Omnibus regulations.  As such, many of our customers and leads look to us to find out exactly what they need to do to be compliant.

This article provides you with a quick and easy-to-read overview of the various things needed for compliance.  The items given below should not be considered a complete or formal list for compliance, nor will doing all of these things guarantee that you are compliant.  As always, we recommend that you consult a lawyer to determine the compliance needs specific to your particular situation

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Is a FAX document HIPAA-Secure?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Many organizations, especially in the healthcare industry, have an urgent need to send important and sensitive information, like protected health information (what constitutes PHI?), to organizations via FAX (facsimile).

Why?  Because this is how it has always been done, and everyone is “set up” to be able to handle FAXes quickly and efficiently.

However, with HIPAA security regulations ever-present, our clients are concerned that their use of FAX is compliant, similar to making sure that their email and web sites meet HIPAA security standards.

Update – for electronic FAXing options, see: HIPAA Faxing: How to Send and Receive FAXes in a Secure and Compliant Way.

Beyond compliance issues, a FAX is not really useful — you essentially get a printout or an image and not an electronic document that can be efficiently used.  This is not good for productivity or for meeting other standards.

Can data sent via FAX be “secure enough” for HIPAA?

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Does sending email using BCC make it HIPAA Compliant?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

HIPAA Email SecurityPeople have asked us if sending an email to someone via BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) is HIPAA-compliant.  For example, a doctor’s office sending a newsletter to its patients via BCC.  The presumption is that because when a message is sent via BCC, the recipient’s email address is not visible in the message that there is no way to identify the individual(s) to whom the message was sent and thus the messages do not contain any “personally identifiable health information” (ePHI) that is protected by HIPAA.

The short answer is “BCC is not good enough“.  For the long answer, read on.

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