HIPAA compliance is an integral part of any telehealth platform design. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patient privacy and confidentiality by requiring that health care providers, including physicians, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organizations, maintain strict security measures to ensure the privacy of protected health information (PHI).
Telehealth platforms should comply with HIPAA policies and regulations to ensure they are not exposing your patients’ private information and their security meets industry standards.
The following sections will help you understand how HIPAA affects telehealth platforms and what steps your organization can take to avoid potential problems.
What Is HIPAA Compliance?
HIPAA was passed in 1996 to protect patient healthcare information from unauthorized third parties. The law aims to give patients greater control over their medical information while sharing securely across different service providers. It has become the most widely used set of rules governing exchanging and using electronically protected health information (ePHI).
As part of its mission to promote privacy, efficiency, and quality of care, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a series of compliance guidelines known as the Omnibus Rule. These guidelines outline the basic requirements that all covered entities and business associates must comply with regarding ePHI.
A telehealth platform must ensure PHI by using encryption when electronically transferring among individuals or organizations to comply with HIPAA regulations. As the healthcare sector has continued to adopt new technologies, more risks are associated with storing PHI.
Additionally, with so many healthcare providers offering services online, increased regulations surrounding electronic communications will soon become a reality. HIPAA compliance provides safeguards that help ensure your organization’s data security and privacy.
Why Should We Care About HIPAA Compliance?
Telehealth offers many benefits to patients and providers, such as easy access to care, increased efficiency, and improved communication. However, if you’re using a videoconferencing service that is not HIPAA-compliant, you and your patients could be exposed to potential breaches – primarily if you transmit confidential medical information.
Your telehealth software should meet specific criteria outlined by HIPAA to remain compliant.
Key components include:
Encryption – If you plan to transmit PHI via email, website, chat, or social media, you’ll need an encrypted connection between individuals. Whether during an exam or when accessing documents, you must first utilize strong encryption; this ensures the confidentiality of any information transmitted.
Encryption protects against hacks that might occur due to human error or negligence. Additionally, the encryption should be strong enough to withstand brute force attacks.
Security Management – It is vital to have an information management system that includes processes and controls designed to prevent unauthorized disclosure of ePHI. This means having policies and procedures to safeguard PHI, including monitoring activities and identifying vulnerabilities.
It is also essential to regularly test these systems to identify weaknesses before they can cause harm. A telehealth platform must create and maintain accurate, complete, and readily available documentation about how ePHI is collected, used, disclosed, retained, destroyed, archived, reused, accessed, or otherwise processed.
Patient Notice – All users should receive educational material describing how data is transmitted, stored, used, disclosed, and destroyed, along with guidance on who else may view the patient’s records.
You can learn more about the HIPAA compliance requirements in our summary of the Security Rule safeguards.
Compliance Issues With Video Conferencing
Video conferencing platforms provide a cost-effective way for clinicians to conduct virtual visits with their patients. However, although most videoconferencing platforms are HIPAA-compliant today, there are still some issues that could put your practice at risk.
Telehealth platforms may pose problems. For example, if you use an unencrypted telemedicine platform, a hacker could potentially intercept PHI while traveling through networks and datacenter backbones.
To protect against this potential risk, we recommend using a HIPAA-certified online portal that provides telehealth services. These portals offer secure connections, privacy features, and encryption capabilities.
What Does Great HIPAA-Compliant Telehealth Look Like?
A telehealth solution offers so much more than just simply providing virtual visits. It also has services from patients completing forms online to generating clinical reports. Here are some of the best features built into a great HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform:
#1. Secure Connections
- HIPAA-compliant security protocols
- Use of authentication methods such as SSL/TLS (HTTPS)
- Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.2 support to help ensure confidentiality and integrity during transmissions.
#2. Encrypted Communications
- HIPAA-eligible cryptographic algorithms
- Encryption using advanced standards such as public-key cryptography (PKI), digital signatures, or asymmetric keys, depending on your needs.
#3. Data Storage
- In-house HIPAA-compliant storage systems
- Data retention schedules determined by your legal department
#4. Reporting & Permissions
- Auditing of actions that concern potential access to PHI
- Auditing of geographic location of participants for video sessions, for clinical licensing purposes
- Session history that identifies individual participants and duration
- Role-based access permissions
What Are The Requirements Under HIPAA for Using Telemedicine?
The following applies only to electronic communications within the United States, where electronic communications are subject to HIPAA.
Protecting Electronic Health Information – HIPAA allows covered entities (which include hospitals, clinics, physician groups, nursing homes, pharmacies, HMOs, and payers) to create and enforce policies, procedures, and administrative controls to protect ePHI. These rules also apply to health care providers who transmit data electronically. Covered professionals must comply with HIPAA’s privacy and security obligations.
Records Retention – HIPAA requires covered entities to maintain records documenting business associate agreements and contracts. Business associates are third parties with access to PHI.
Security Standards – HIPAA requires covered healthcare organizations to implement technical safeguards to protect ePHI. The organization must establish processes to identify risks, assess threats, evaluate vulnerabilities, and develop countermeasures.
Compliance Certification – HIPAA requires covered healthcare organizations to undergo annual compliance assessments. The certification process includes testing and auditing the organization’s compliance program. If the organization fails to pass its first audit, it is required to submit an action plan outlining how it will meet its compliance obligations.
Access Control – Permitted uses of information stored by a covered entity and access to protected health information must be limited in accordance with the Privacy Rule.
Why Do You Need to Switch to HIPAA-Compliant Telehealth?
Healthcare IT experts agree that telehealth service provides several benefits. It helps eliminate unnecessary office visits, saving patients money while reducing traffic in emergency rooms and urgent care centers. In addition, it increases convenience for patients and enables them to get the care they need when they need it most – without having to make additional trips to their doctor’s office.
How to Start Using HIPAA-Compliant Software
As we become increasingly dependent on technology for communication and record-keeping, it’s essential to know what these systems can do to protect our patients’ interests.
HIPAA compliance is a growing concern in the telemedicine industry. Many medical professionals and healthcare providers struggle to keep up with new regulations. While some vendors have adapted their technology platforms to support all aspects of HIPAA, others are still struggling with this challenge. Still, there’s no need to be overwhelmed by fear-all you need is an easy-to-use telehealth platform that complies with HIPAA standards for electronic health records.
We have a solution that fits your needs perfectly. With 10 years of experience in the healthcare market, we understand how critical it is to provide reliable telehealth videoconferencing tools that will help you stay HIPAA compliant.
That’s why we built the SecureVideo HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing platform. Our solution allows organizations with small or large budgets to start with fully functional HIPAA- compliant telehealth services and add future features as needed without worrying about adding HIPAA security measures later.
Our platform is designed to enable you to safely transmit secure audio/video communications between individuals over IP networks with high levels of encryption. This means you’ll never have to worry about the confidentiality of your sensitive voice and video data passing through our network.
We also offer three different pricing plans so you can choose what works best for your organization. Please find out more about our HIPAA-compliant solutions here, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.