HIPAA Standards for Email Communication with Patients
HIPAA is the federal act formally known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This act was passed in 1996 and was designed to protect patient information. According to HIPAA.com, protected information is any information, whether oral or recorded in any form or medium, that:
“(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.”
“Individually identifiable health information is information that is a subset of health information, including demographic information collected from an individual, and:
(1) Is created or received by a health care provider, health plan, employer, or health care clearinghouse; and
(2) Relates to the past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition of an 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; and
(i) That identifies the individual; or
(ii) With respect to which there is a reasonable basis to believe the information can be used to identify the individual.”
These laws don’t just apply to your interactions with your patients online. They also apply to your electronic interactions with them. And while it might seem easy to just avoid emailing with patients, today’s technology engrossed audience demands quick and easy communication through email and forms.
When you’re designing a website, it’s important that it comply with HIPAA in its entirety. Not doing so puts your practice at risk for a lawsuit and damages your reputation beyond repair.
Why Promote That You Support HIPAA?
HIPPAA is an act that nearly every person knows about. It’s what’s responsible for allowing people to feel comfortable sharing information with their doctor and dentist. When a person sees that a practice is not just familiar with HIPAA, but also makes an effort to comply with it and communicate that with patients, they are more likely to trust their practice.
This results is an open exchange of information, which leads to:
- a better relationship between doctors and dentists and their patients
- improved communication
- better treatment and problem resolution
Secure Email is Crucial
Secure email is a must have for all practices that want to quickly and easily communicate with their patients. Email helps to improve a practice’s efficiency and can also save money. Instead of having to waste precious time mailing communication pieces to patients you can instantly send them via email. This saves time and money on postage. It also guarantees that your message is more likely to reach them, rather than having to rely on the postal system.
Most people do not like to be bothered with a phone call when a message can quickly be communicated by email. HIPAA compliant email allows you to save time and communicate with your patients in the most efficient way possible.
Maintain Consistency, Avoid Errors
Email and secure forms can play an important role in reducing the amount of errors that occur when a practice is functioning. Phone calls and walk-ins can interrupt the flow of your office staff’s day and as a result increase the errors that are made in paperwork and communications. In fact, a study from Michigan State University in 2013 proved that, “Short interruptions – such as the few seconds it takes to silence that buzzing smartphone – have a surprisingly large effect on one’s ability to accurately complete a task…”
Consider how you respond when a person interrupts your thought process:
- you become distracted
- you have a hard time getting back on track
- when you do finally get back to your task resuming where you left off is difficult
Email threads and online forms can help keep a consistent record of communications, limit the possibility of misinterpretations, and reduce errors.
Provide an Exceptional Patient Experience
Today’s patients want more from their practice. They’re used to having everything at their fingertips, so it makes sense that they would want to be able to communicate with their doctor or dentist from their phone, access their records and test results, and fill out paperwork.
By offering these amenities you’ll retain patients and attract patients because of the convenience you’re offering them. A great patient experience that’s secure and trustworthy is one of the best gifts you can give to your patients. In fact, a study of 433 Americans aged 21 and older suggested that nine out of ten adults want email communication from their doctor and dentist.