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HIPAA Compliant Email

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HIPAA Compliant Email for Healthcare Providers

Is email HIPAA compliant?

What is HIPAA Compliant Email?

What is a HIPAA compliant email, and why do healthcare providers need it?

HIPAA Compliant Email is a secure and private email service. It is used by Healthcare Professionals to send Protected Health Information (PHI) to their patients and other healthcare professionals. Healthcare providers must implement strong security measures (such as end-to-end encryption) when sending PHI via email.

A HIPAA compliant email service for physicians, dentists, therapists, and other healthcare providers is required to send and receive PHI. The following types of email exchanges need to be HIPAA compliant. 

  1. Communications with Patients
  2. Communications In-Office
  3. Communications Between Providers & Other Covered Entities (CE’s)
  4. Communications via Personal Email

Digital technology has revolutionized the healthcare industry. With new and improved advancements coming out every year, it can be difficult to understand how a patient’s medical information is affected. Setting up a HIPAA compliant email can be tough, but data security is important to protect patients’ health information. Understanding data security can also help avoid data breaches.

Protected Health Information (PHI)

Protected Health Information (PHI) is protected under HIPAA regulations. According to HIPAA regulations, medical information is considered PHI only if there are identifiable factors connected to that data. Identifiable factors are broad characteristics that uniquely link a patient to their medical data (name, initials, DOB, SSN, etc.). If this information is not properly secured, it becomes susceptible to a data breach. 


What is a Data Breach?

Did you know the leading case of data breaches are due to hacking/IT incidents? In 2020, 45% of data breach hacking incidents occurred from an email source. 

A data breach occurs when unauthorized personnel obtain and gain access to information that is meant to be kept private. A data breach can happen in any industry. However, they are particularly dangerous in a healthcare setting because a patient’s personal medical information is put at risk.


Data Breaches in Healthcare

Hacking into healthcare systems is particularly attractive to a hacker because PHI is a valuable form of currency. In fact, selling medical records on The Black Market is far more valuable than private banking information.

Other uses for PHI may be used to commit Medicare fraud, access personal bank accounts, and make false medical claims. Patient’s are subject to the detrimental effects associated with these cyberattacks if a healthcare entity does not properly secure their information.

Protecting patient data with a secure, HIPAA compliant security service is one the most effective ways to prevent a data breach. 


How are Emails Sent and Received?

Sending an email seems basic at first glance. However, its journey from sender to receiver is actually much more complex. To understand why HIPAA compliant email is necessary, understanding the journey an email takes before landing in an inbox is crucial.  

After an email is drafted and leaves the outgoing mailbox, it is sent to the sender’s server. Then, it travels to the receiver’s server. Finally, after bouncing from server to server, it lands in the receiver’s inbox. 

What is a Server?

A server is a piece of hardware that helps computers operate over a network. Think of a computer server as a “middle man” that functions as a means to an end. Before an email is delivered, it passes through two servers, the sender’s server and the receiver’s server. After this, it is delivered to the recipient’s inbox.

When an email passes through a server, a copy of that data are stored on each of the servers. If your data is not properly secured, a hacker can access copies of this data stored on the server.


HIPAA Compliant vs Un-secure Email Platforms

Having a HIPAA compliant, secure email is crucial when protecting a patient’s health information. Free, online email platforms (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, etc.) are not secure and therefore do not meet HIPAA requirements.

Free HIPAA compliant email services do not exist. If you send PHI on an un-secure email account, you run the risk of compromising a patient’s medical information. In addition, your practice could face hefty fees and HIPAA non-compliance penalties.  


How Does HIPAA Compliant Email Work?

HIPAA compliant email platforms are a complex, but necessary element when maintaining HIPAA compliance. HIPAA compliant email services work by securing private information in-transit and at-rest. This process is known as HIPAA compliant email encryption. Additionally, hosted email security services will implement other tactics to protect patient health information. 


How Do HIPAA Compliant Emails Protect Sensitive Information?

Advanced threats from hackers compromise secure communications in the healthcare industry. With the recent increase in data breaches, email security solutions should be a top priority for healthcare professionals. At EnGuard, we implement the following tactics to ensure the best email security service is always available to our clients.

Access Control

This is a key factor to look for when choosing a HIPAA compliant email service. Using a simple password that you can easily remember may be convenient for you. However, it can also make sensitive data an ideal target for a hacker. Deploying a strong password and requiring two-factor authentication will help to safeguard a patient’s health information.

Maintaining Data Integrity

Phishing emails are among the most common kinds of cyberattacks. These email attacks may contain awkward grammar, misspellings, and suspicious email addresses. HIPAA compliant email services like EnGuard filter over 95% of incoming mail that seems suspicious to avoid phishing attacks.

State-of-the-art Data Back-Up

Investing in an email service with a strong data protection plan is crucial when you are handling sensitive data via email. At EnGuard, we have implemented a state-of-the-art back up plan to provide our clients with industry-leading data protection. Additionally, we backup your data in real time. Our services archive all incoming and outgoing messages to give clients the peace of mind they need.


End-to-End Email Data Encryption 

HIPAA compliant email service for healthcare providers

Making PHI anonymous is one of the best practices for email security. A HIPAA compliant email security service uses a complex process known as data encryption to strip confidential data of any identifiable factors. It adds an extra layer of protection to secure confidential information on a piece of hardware or internal software system. 

Standard app security only protects data that is at rest, meaning it is not in motion. It is stored on a laptop, USB, or hard drive. Once this data leaves the device, it becomes data in transit.

Data in transit travels through multiple unsecured networks before it is delivered to its recipient. As a result, unprotected information is subject to a potential data breach.

The Benefits of End-to-End Email Data Encryption

End-to-end encryption secures data throughout its journey from one device to another. This email security solution is one of the best ways to protect sensitive information. Encrypted data remains secure as it passes through multiple servers. This ensures that the data is safe as it travels across a network server.

Data encryption uses a complex algorithm to anonymize data, making it impossible to trace back to a specific person. Additionally, the encryption method makes data look like nonsense while it is in motion. It cannot be reversed without the encryption key. Encrypting data not only makes audits more efficient, but also gives patients positive control over their information.


End-to-End Email Data Encryption at EnGuard

Encryption does not mean “data is safe forever,” rather, “data is safe for a certain amount of time.” As computers become faster and smarter, it can be easier for them to hack an outdated encryption algorithm. Extensive maintenance and upkeep is crucial to ensure data is safe and secure.

At Enterprise Guardian, we use the latest and most-secure encryption algorithm available. Also known as AES 256, this encryption algorithm keeps data safe and secure for an estimated 1.5 million years. If you are looking for the best HIPAA compliant email service, entrust your data to EnGuard!


HIPAA Compliant Email FAQ

Q. How to send HIPAA compliant email?

In order to send a HIPAA compliant email, you will need to utilize a HIPAA compliant email service provider. This is the most effective way to ensure that Protected Health Information (PHI) is properly safeguarded. A HIPAA compliant email service uses data encryption to secure PHI in transit and at rest. When you send an email, it passes through multiple network servers until finally landing in the receiver’s inbox. A copy of that email is stored on each server it passes through. If that data is not properly secured, a hacker can access one of these servers, thus putting PHI at risk for a data breach. Encrypting your data with end-to-end data encryption makes PHI anonymous while the email bounces from server to server. This will ensure that your email is protected throughout its entire journey from sender to receiver.

Q. Is Gmail HIPAA Compliant?

Free email services, like Gmail and Yahoo mail, are not HIPAA compliant. Email accounts associated with Gmail include an address ending in @gmail.com and are only intended for personal use. As such, they should not be used by HIPAA covered entities to send or receive PHI. Utilizing a secure, HIPAA compliant email service will allow you to safely handle confidential email communications. Cybersecurity companies that specialize in HIPAA compliant security practices use tactics such as data encryption and access controls to safeguard PHI.

Q. What is an encrypted email?

An encrypted email is a secured message that contains anonymous health information. In order for medical data to be protected under HIPAA laws, it needs to contain identifiable factors. These are broad characteristics that make data individually identifiable to a specific patient. A patient’s full name, SSN, DOB, employment information, phone number, email address, medical history, and much more are all examples of information that makes health records protected under HIPAA. Encryption is a method of data security that strips electronic health records of their identifiable factors. Once they are anonymous, they become useless to a hacker who may want to compromise the integrity of the data. Data encryption is one of the most effective methods for safeguarding PHI because as soon as data is encrypted, it cannot be reversed unless you have the decryption key.

Q. Do HIPAA laws protect emails?

The Privacy and Security rules under HIPAA protect sensitive medical information in all forms. This includes electronic communication such as email, video conference, text messaging, and more. Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) is PHI that is stored or uploaded virtually. Photos of a patient, emailed test results, and electronic prescriptions are all examples of ePHI. Healthcare entities often use electronic modalities like email platforms to send and receive PHI. This data is protected under HIPAA and as such, should be secured accordingly.

Q. How to make your email HIPAA compliant?

You can make your email HIPAA compliant by working with a secure email service. If you handle confidential information in your email communications, using a HIPAA compliant email service will be extremely beneficial. Healthcare security solution companies like Enterprise Guardian specialize in protecting private data. Using tactics like encryption and access management, you can make your emails HIPAA compliant and minimize the risk of a data breach.

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