HIPAA compliance for email in 3 easy steps

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3 steps

HIPAA compliance for email is a complex issue that requires more than just encryption. So, how can you send secure emails to patients without violating HIPAA? Keep reading to learn how you can deliver HIPAA compliant email to your patients in three easy steps.

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Covered Entities must consider both emails in transit and at rest. Sending non-HIPAA compliant emails to patients puts their private information at risk. It can also lead to costly penalties and damaging effects on a healthcare provider’s reputation. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the HIPAA Security Rule does not explicitly prohibit using email to send protected health information (PHI) as long as certain protections are in place. 

1. Educate and train your staff on HIPAA compliance for email

To make HIPAA compliant email a top priority for your company, certain safeguards and workflows need to be implemented. 

  • Establish strong password policies and set up controls so employees can only access files that are relevant to their work. 
  • Create written policies on who has permission to access PHI, as well as when it is acceptable to send PHI and to whom.
  • Ensure that your staff understands the importance of obtaining consent with opt-ins before receiving PHI via email.
  • Provide cybersecurity training for your staff so they know how to recognize phishing and display name spoofing attacks.

2. Protect data at rest 

While proper security measures can help keep your patients’ sensitive information safe, mistakes are inevitable. In fact, human error is responsible for the majority of HIPAA email breaches and violations.

That’s why it’s equally important to leverage the right technology, and the first factor to consider is your email server. 

Under HIPAA, PHI must be safeguarded “at rest.” If you’re using a third-party email provider, you’ll need to obtain a business associate agreement (BAA). This document outlines the responsibilities of the service provider in safeguarding electronic PHI (ePHI). 

Many email platforms like Gmail and Yahoo do not sign a BAA, which means there is no guarantee that information stored on those consumer servers is secure.

If an email service provider is not willing to sign a BAA, keep looking for one that will. 

3. Choose a HIPAA compliant email service that offers end-to-end encryption 

HIPAA also requires data to be secured in transit, which refers to email moving from one server to another.

Standard email is not always secure end-to-end. This is because it was designed with the primary goal of delivering messages, not providing email security.

Google’s own data states that only 87% of email sent with Gmail is encrypted. For HIPAA standards, 87% simply isn’t good enough. Only 100% encryption is acceptable.

Therefore, covered entities should work with a third-party HIPAA compliant email provider that can protect emails every step of the way.

Seamless HIPAA compliance for email with Paubox 

Paubox’s HIPAA compliant email service delivers encryption on 100% of emails that go out—even if the recipient’s provider doesn’t support encryption. 

Paubox Email Suite enables HIPAA compliant email by default and automatically encrypts every outbound message. This means you don’t have to spend time deciding which emails to encrypt, and your patients can conveniently receive your messages right in their inbox—no additional passwords or portals necessary. 

HIPAA compliance and cybersecurity for healthcare email

In addition to enabling healthcare email encryption for HIPAA compliance, Paubox Email Suite’s Plus and Premium plan levels include robust inbound email security tools that prevent malicious cyberattacks from reaching the inbox in the first place. 

Our patent-pending Zero Trust Email feature uses email AI to confirm that an email is legitimate. Additionally, our patented ExecProtect feature quickly intercepts display name spoofing attempts.

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Sara Uzer

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