5 Best HIPAA Compliant Patient Communication Strategies

5 min read

Posted On January 11, 2022

hipaa compliant patient communication

HIPAA compliant patient communication is an integral part of providing a high level of care to patients.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a law put into place to protect sensitive patient data. Covered entities under HIPAA must implement technical, physical, and administrative safeguards to protect patient data.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE HIPAA COMPLIANT COMMUNICATIONS CHECKLIST

HIPAA compliant patient communication can take many forms, but it always revolves around keeping an individual's protected health information (PHI) safe. 

There are five primary methods for communicating with patients:

  1. In-Person 
  2. Mail 
  3. Telephone 
  4. Text Messages and Emails 
  5. Videoconferencing 

So, what methods of communication are HIPAA Compliant?

Below are some strategies covered entities can employ while using the communication methods above to remain HIPAA compliant. 

In-Person HIPAA Compliant Patient Communication

Meeting face to face with the patient is the primary way medical professionals have historically interacted with patients. The HIPAA Privacy Rule protects any information that is exchanged between medical professionals and patients. The common-sense approach to remaining HIPAA compliant is to ensure that any discussions with the patient occur in a private office or space away from eavesdroppers. 

Healthcare professionals should not use any recording devices without the patient's express consent. In addition, medical professionals should avoid discussing any PHI in public areas.

Read HIPAA Compliant Texting: What You Need to Know

HIPAA Compliant Patient Communication via Mail

You can only send PHI via first-class US mail to be HIPAA compliant. In certain specified circumstances, you must send PHI using certified mail. Certified mail ensures that only the intended recipient can receive it because they have to sign for it. Certified mail is also trackable, ensuring unauthorized individuals don't access it.

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE HIPAA COMPLIANT COMMUNICATIONS CHECKLIST

HIPAA Compliant Texting and Email

Text messages and email communications are not HIPAA compliant unless technical safeguards – such as encryption, access controls, and audit controls – are in place to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of PHI.

In addition, text and email communication service providers must sign Business Associate Agreements with HIPAA covered entities for the service to be regarded as HIPAA compliant. These rules, therefore, disqualify popular services like free WhatsApp, Messenger, and others. 

Learn more: Are Messaging Apps Safe for HIPAA Compliant File Sharing?

The solution is to use specialist, purpose-built HIPAA compliant instant messaging and file sharing apps which run on an encrypted network – complete with audit and access controls – and ensure HIPAA compliance. 

HIPAA Compliant Patient Communication via Telephone

According to a recent study by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), the telephone was the primary communication method for patient appointments during the COVID pandemic. 

HIPAA Compliant Patient Communication via Telephone

(Image source: mgma.com)

Giving a phone number is considered giving consent for HIPAA related calls. The patient can, however, withdraw their permission at any time. When PHI is mentioned in a phone call with a patient, it might refer to a variety of health-related information such as test results, appointment reminders, pre-op instructions, and post-discharge follow-ups. 

However, additional precautions are required. HIPAA-covered entities must ensure that any PHI is secured.

The safeguards used may vary with each medical professional. There are, however, a few methods by which these organizations may verify identities over the phone. To confirm the identity of the patient over the phone, for example, the medical professional could request their name and two pieces of identifying information that only the patient would know. 

When a patient is called at home, the medical professional should always verify that they have reached the intended party and clearly explain who they are and why they're calling before going into any specifics. In addition, when communicating with a patient by telephone, medical professionals should ensure that all PHI is spoken in private and not over an open line. 

Finally, where possible, phone conversations should be brief to minimize the risk if someone is listening in or recording. 

HIPAA Compliant Patient Communication via Video Conferencing

Video conferencing also gained traction following the recent COVID pandemic. Medical professionals have taken advantage of the advancement of video conferencing technology to deliver telemedicine consultations to patients.

 However, not all video conferencing providers are HIPAA compliant as standard. For example, Skype for Business is not HIPAA compliant unless you purchase the Enterprise E3 or E5 package. 

Getting Started with HIPAA Compliant Patient Communication

Being compliant with HIPAA regulations can be challenging. The best way to guarantee compliance is by using an encrypted file-sharing service that will ensure your information stays safe and secure while you communicate with patients, clients, or other providers of healthcare services. 

At Central Data Storage, our cloud storage backup and recovery solutions and encrypted file sharing mobile and desktop apps are designed from the ground up to help you achieve HIPAA compliance with all your communications. Our solutions are trusted by hundreds of healthcare professionals around the country. 

With beyond military grade encryption and an intuitive, user-friendly interface, our HIPAA compliant solutions ensure the greatest protection and experience for both your staff and your patients. 

Download our free HIPAA eBook for more tips on how to stay compliant with HIPAA at all times.

Call 1-888-907-1227 or email info@centraldatastorage.com to learn more.

HIPAA COMPLIANT CHECKLIST