Risk management concerns cause many healthcare organizations to neglect using email as a communication platform. In the U.S., these concerns are heightened by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Protected Health Information regulations which are explicit about the security requirements for sharing patient information. HIPAA-regulated communications typically fall into two categories: Easily identifiable communications based on relevant medical terms, and free-form communication that isn’t always easy to predefine, but should be sent securely.

It’s no wonder that healthcare providers are afraid of using email for communicating patient information. But with the right technology in place, they don’t have to be. Technologies exist that can help with content control that use predetermined libraries to automatically identify sensitive content and enforce encryption and secure delivery requirements. Effective solutions allow communication between partner organizations that fall under the HIPAA umbrella and can be sent encrypted through simple policies set up by an IT administrator. Good news. Healthcare organizations can stop living in fear of stringent policies, rules and regulations. Here are three ways healthcare organizations can implement secure email communications using advanced technology:

  1. Transport-level encryption: Emails should be encrypted during transmission between email servers to provide protection from interception.
  2. Message-level encryption: Because issues can arise with the servers themselves, message-level encryption can be used to protect content on the remote email server.
  3. Secure webmail: The most secure approach is some form of secure webmail delivery, in which the message is stopped at the gateway. The recipient of the email gets a delivery notification with a link that is used to access the original email. Secure webmail delivery solutions typically require a password to access the email which adds another layer of security to message access, giving worried doctors peace of mind. Ideally, the solution will also track recipient access. Use transport-level encryption for access to the Web server.

  Healthcare organizations can stop living in fear of HIPAA rules when it comes to email communications. In fact, they can have it all: compliance, security, efficiency and a positive patient experience. Ready to learn more? Read our Healthcare Security Checklist.

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