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HIPAA compliant sharing solutions for physical therapists

HIPAA compliant sharing solutions for physical therapists

Physical therapists have various communication tools to connect with colleagues, healthcare providers, and patients. However, with the convenience of these tools comes the responsibility of safeguarding patient information and adhering to privacy regulations, such as HIPAA. As a physical therapist, it is necessary to utilize HIPAA compliant solutions to securely share and manage patient data without compromising privacy.


The risks of data breaches and non-compliance

More than 88 million individuals have been affected by large breaches of personal health information, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. Data breaches pose risks to healthcare practices, especially smaller ones that may overlook security measures. However, any medical professional storing or transmitting patient information online must comply with HIPAA security rules to avoid fines and potential liability. Even a single lost client record can expose providers to substantial penalties.

Read more: Understanding HIPAA violations and breaches


Secure text messaging solutions

Text messaging has become a common means of communication in healthcare settings. While it offers convenience and instant communication, it is important to prioritize security when using text messages for patient care. Here are some considerations for using secure text messaging solutions:


User experience

When selecting a secure text messaging app, prioritize a seamless user experience. Look for solutions that replicate the familiar texting experience, ensuring ease of use for both therapists and patients.


Message storage

To minimize the risk of a breach, choose a provider that stores messages on its servers rather than storing them on therapists' phones. This approach reduces the chance of exposing sensitive content if a phone is lost or stolen. Moreover, opt for solutions that encrypt data at rest and in transit to enhance security against hacking attempts. 


Control forwarding

To maintain the security of patient information, messages should not be saved, copied, or forwarded to other recipients. Therapists can ensure that only the intended recipient can view the information by preventing unauthorized access to sensitive content.



While messages are not stored on therapists' phones, ensure compliance with HIPAA's audit rules. Choose a provider that offers easy access to usage data and monitoring information for administrators, enabling effective auditing of text message exchanges.

Read more: Texting tools and HIPAA compliance: The ultimate guide 


Secure email solutions

Email remains a valuable tool for quickly sharing files in healthcare settings. However, it is not inherently secure. To ensure HIPAA compliance and protect patient privacy, consider the following when using email:


Identity validation

Select an email provider that validates the recipient's identity. This can be achieved through methods such as secret question verification or other secure authentication measures.



For auditing purposes, opt for email tools that offer tracking and logging capabilities. These features enable the monitoring and documentation of email exchanges, ensuring compliance with security requirements.


Mobile compatibility

Given the risk of HIPAA breaches through lost or stolen mobile devices, choose an encrypted email provider that supports mobile devices. This ensures that therapists can securely access and exchange patient information while working on the go.


Sender support

A key aspect of email security lies in facilitating secure communication with patients. If the encrypted email setup is overly complex for non-users, patients may be less likely to use it. Cloud-based file encryption can simplify collaboration by allowing secure file sharing without requiring additional downloads or setups.


Message storage

When using email encryption, it is important to consider how files are securely stored and backed up. Centralized file storage and backup solutions help ensure record retention and facilitate audit trails.

See also: HIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide


Encryption with cloud-based solutions

Cloud-based file sync and share programs provide a convenient way to store, exchange, and sync files across different devices. To ensure HIPAA compliance and protect patient data, consider the following:



While most cloud providers encrypt data at rest and in transit, it is necessary to find solutions that also encrypt data on devices. This additional layer of protection ensures that files remain encrypted regardless of their location, making the cloud a secure environment for storing and sharing patient information.


Easy sharing

Cloud sync and share programs often include features such as shared folders, making it effortless to exchange information with frequent collaborators. Prioritize security providers that maintain encryption while sharing data, ensuring that sensitive information remains protected.


Seamless security

To encourage adoption and compliance, encryption solutions should prioritize user experience. Therapists and other users should find the encryption process seamless and intuitive, without compromising the convenience of using the cloud.


Separate data from keys

Consider using a security provider independent of your storage provider for enhanced security. This separation ensures that encryption keys are completely separate from the content, preventing unauthorized file access. 

Read more: The HIPAA compliant cloud services checklist 


HIPAA compliant file sharing solutions

HIPAA compliance is a must for any organization that deals with patient data. That’s why we’ve come up with this list of file-sharing tools worth using:


Dropbox for Business

Dropbox uses an enterprise-grade security system with 256-bit AES encryption along with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption for safe data transmission. Dropbox also meets compliance standards for ISO 27001 and SOC 2.



Box provides large file access for healthcare companies and works with different operating systems for employee devices. What stands out about Box storage is the number of advanced integrations available. Box also allows users to securely share and view imaging files, such as X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds.


G Suite

G Suite, once called Google Apps for Work, is ISO 27001 certified and has passed both SOC2 and SOC3 audits. Customers who opt for this file-sharing option get BAA signed, which is a prerequisite for HIPAA compliance. 


ShareFile Business

The ShareFile Business package is a simpler way to go about sharing files. Users have the option to download a desktop app or go online to the ShareFile web portal. ShareFile provides a more stripped-down solution than the competitors. However, it still offers very attractive security features, such as SSL/TLS encryption protocols, audit trails, and configurable permissions.



What are HIPAA-compliant sharing solutions for physical therapists?

Physical therapists can use secure text messaging, secure email, and encrypted cloud-based file-sharing services to share and manage patient information while meeting HIPAA security rules. These solutions help ensure the security and privacy of patient records.


How can physical therapists obtain patient consent for email communication?

Physical therapists should obtain written consent from patients before sharing PHI via email. Providing educational materials to patients about how their information will be communicated and stored ensures transparency and regulatory compliance.


What best practices should physical therapists follow for internal and external communication to ensure HIPAA compliance?

Physical therapists should use secure messaging platforms for internal communication to limit access to authorized personnel. When communicating with external parties, such as patients or referral sources, they should choose HIPAA compliant email services or secure messaging platforms with encryption in transit and at rest. 

See also: Top 10 HIPAA compliant email services 

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