19 May Can You Email Medical Records?
The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a legislation addressing the handling of individual medical information. Organizations, including insurance companies, law firms, etc., must adhere to privacy rules over a person’s health information.
However, adherence to HIPAA has been a challenge considering the expansion of communications avenues to platforms such as email. Therefore, many questions regarding HIPAA compliance arise.
This post addresses three questions; ‘can you email medical records?’, ‘is email HIPAA compliant?’ and ‘what is needed to make email HIPAA compliant?’ We’ll also discuss an efficient and secure way to get healthcare information instead of sending it through email.
Is Email HIPAA Compliant?
This question goes hand in hand with the concern whether you can email medical records? The answer is yes; you can email medical records securely, but only when the email itself is HIPAA compliant. So, if you’re wondering whether email is HIPAA compliant, the answer is also yes, but with a condition. The condition is that you should take steps to ensure there is no violation of HIPAA rules when you are sending the email.
Sending protected information via email can be HIPAA compliant, as long as you apply reasonable safeguards and take proper precautions when doing so.
What Is Needed to Make Email HIPAA Compliant?
In order to make the emailing of medical records HIPAA compliant, you will need to take the following steps:
#I. Have end-to-end encryption
Although email is a fast and efficient way to communicate electronically, it does not mean it is a secure way. You should have end-to-end encryption as it ensures both the stored messages and those in transit meet the required level of security. Some email service providers require using a portal or clicking a button to encrypt individual emails.
But the sender can easily forget to enable the encryption and send an unencrypted email accidentally. End-to-end encryption ensures only the intended sender and recipient can access the emails, thus reducing the potential for human error.
#II. Enter into a HIPAA-compliant business associate agreement
Businesses that use a third-party email provider should request a business associate agreement before sending electronic protected health information (ePHI) using the service. The agreement describes the responsibilities of the service provider. Besides, it establishes the use of physical, technical, and administrative safeguards in ensuring the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of ePHI.
#III. Ensure correct email configuration
Obtaining a business associate agreement is not everything. An email has multiple risks and may violate HIPAA rules if it configures the email service wrongly. Therefore, you must be careful when configuring the service to ensure end-to-end encryption.
#IV. Ensure retention of all emails
The email retention issue under HIPAA rules is unclear. The legislation does not specifically mention email retention. However, since a person can demand details on disclosures of ePHI, and email conversations are necessary when taking legal action against a healthcare institution, covered entities should ensure they back up and store emails.
#V. Train your staff on email use
Training your team on using email correctly for ePHI is critical. Data breaches can occur due to errors by the staff, such as sending ePHI to unauthorized individuals or sending ePHI through an unencrypted email. Therefore, your entire team should know their responsibilities under HIPAA and train on how to use the email service.
At this point, we hope the answer to the question ‘can you email medical records?’ is clear. You can do it provided you have put the five measures discussed above in place.
What Can Happen If You Violate HIPAA?
Violating HIPAA has major consequences for a business’s reputation and bottom line. Generally, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) prefers resolving the violations through non-punitive measures such as providing technical guidance to help covered entities rectify the areas of non-compliance or allowing voluntary compliance. But for serious HIPAA violations, especially if it has been a persistent habit or there are several areas of non-compliance, the OCR may place financial penalties on a business.
The penalty structure has four categories:
The tier 1 category includes a violation that the business was unaware of and was realistically unavoidable even with a reasonable amount of care to adhere to HIPAA rules. The fine per violation ranges between $100 to $50,000.
This category includes a violation that a covered entity knew about but could not have avoided even if it applied reasonable care. The fine per violation ranges between $1,000 to $50,000.
This category includes a violation resulting from ‘willful neglect’ of HIPAA rules. But there has been an attempt to correct the violation. The fine per violation ranges between $10,000 to $50,000.
Tier 4 includes a violation resulting from ‘willful neglect’ of HIPAA rules where there was no attempt to correct the violation. The minimum fine per violation is $50,000.
OCR considers several factors, including how long a violation lasted, the nature of information exposed, and the number of people affected, to determine the financial penalty.
How To Request Medical Records and Stay HIPAA Compliant
American Retrieval is a leading medical record retrieval service that helps insurance companies and law firms access electronic protected health information (ePHI). With American Retrieval, you no longer need to concern yourself with questions such as ‘is email HIPAA compliant’ because your organization won’t be at any risk of violating HIPAA rules.
One of the benefits of retrieving medical records using American Retrieval is that it’s very affordable. A medical record retrieval service lowers the risks of costly litigations that would arise in case of HIPAA violations. Also, when you outsource the service from American Retrieval, you free up your staff to focus on core areas of the business.
Retrieving medical records using American Retrieval is also very fast. You can get the information you need quickly and at any time. Unlike waiting to receive crucial health information through email, retrieval service simply involves pulling the data from the archives while remaining HIPAA compliant.
Furthermore, outsourcing medical retrieval from a company such as American Retrieval makes the information easily-but securely-accessible. Insurance companies and law firms deal with multiple parties; therefore, having easy access to medical records is critical for success.
However, this is all done with a high level of precision and accuracy to remain HIPAA compliant, reducing the chances of errors that could come back to haunt your law firm or insurance company.
Save Time With Our HIPAA Compliant Medical Retrieval Services
To the questions of ‘can you email medical records?’ and ‘is email HIPAA compliant?’, we’ve shown that you might take all measures to ensure you stay HIPAA compliant when sending email, but you’ll still have no guarantee that the data transmitted remains confidential.
Therefore, to be completely sure you’re not violating any HIPAA compliance regulations, you should use a medical retrieval service like American Retrieval. When you partner with us, you’ll no longer need to worry about whether email is HIPAA compliant because we give you a safer and easier way of sending medical records.
Contact us today to get started.