Is Your Healthcare Patient Portal HIPAA Compliant?
What Is HIPAA?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patients’ privacy by limiting access to PHI (Protected Health Information) and governing acceptable use of their health data. The HIPAA Privacy Rule is composed of national regulations for the use and disclosure of PHI in healthcare treatment, payment, and operations by covered entities.
What Is A HIPAA Patient Portal
A HIPAA Patient Portal is a form of patient engagement in which health care providers can share information with a patient. If said information includes PHI and medical records, the patient portal must be HIPAA compliant.
Must I Have A HIPAA Patient Portal?
- If you have a patient portal developed, provided by, or on behalf of a covered entity (health plan, healthcare clearinghouses, or healthcare providers), it must be HIPAA compliant.
- If you are a business associate that stores, collects, processes, or transmits PHI on behalf of covered entities, your patient portal must be HIPAA compliant.
What Information Does HIPAA Protect?
Protected Health Information (PHI) is any information that is held by a covered entity regarding a patient’s health status, provision of health care, or health care payment.
There are 18 PHI Identifiers:
- All geographical subdivisions smaller than a State
- All elements of dates (except year) for dates directly related to an individual, including birth date, admission date, discharge date, date of death, and more.
- Phone numbers
- Fax numbers
- Electronic mail addresses
- Social Security numbers
- Medical record numbers
- Health plan beneficiary numbers
- Account numbers
- Certificate/license numbers
- Vehicle identifiers and serial numbers, including license plate numbers
- Device identifiers and serial numbers
- Web Universal Resource Locators (URLs)
- Internet Protocol (IP) address
- Biometric identifiers, including finger and voiceprints
- Full face photographic images and any comparable images
- Any other unique identifying number, characteristic, or code (note this does not mean the unique code assigned by the investigator to code the data)
Tips For Offering A HIPAA Compliant Patient Portal?
- Never Store Protected Health Information (PHI) on a mobile phone.
- HIPAA compliant messaging requires you to exclude PHI in an SMS, email, push, or IVR notification. If you do include PHI in a notification, have your patients accept terms and conditions which permit you to use limited PHI in your notifications, clearly defining what PHI is included.
- Always use a HIPAA-Compliant Hosting Service.
- When working with a web design, hosting company, patient portal vendor, or healthcare app development company, always get a BAA (Business Associate Agreement). A BAA shares the responsibility for all patient information that is received by the company or handled by the patient portal they build.
- Ensure a HIPAA expert audits the final patient portal.
- Have your terms and conditions created/reviewed by an attorney that specializes in HIPAA law.
- Require patients log in each time to access PHI, with a 30-minute auto-logout. To make the patient portal more convenient and user-friendly, consider using face or fingerprint recognition for logins.
- Conduct regular risk assessments. Also, regularly review records of system activity, including audit logs, access reports, and security incident tracking reports.
- Maintain ePHI (electronic personal health information) integrity requirements by implementing information systems that provide features or processes for automatically checking data integrity. These include checksum verification or digital signatures and providing electronic mechanisms to ensure the integrity of ePHI.
- Implement policies and procedures to protect ePHI from improper alteration or destruction.
- Access controls must include unique user identification, emergency access procedure, and automatic logoff.
- According to HIPAA, the information in a medical patient portal should be encrypted at all times – at rest and in transit.
What Are The Penalties For Not Being HIPAA Compliant?
There are several levels of violations based on what a covered entity did or didn’t do.
- A covered entity that did not know and could not have reasonably known of an ePHI breach could be fined $100-$50,000 per incident and up to $1.5 Million.
- A covered entity that “knew,” or by exercising reasonable diligence would have known of an ePHI breach but didn’t act with willful neglect could be fined $1000-$50,000 per incident and up to $1.5 Million.
- A covered entity that acted with willful neglect and corrected the problem within 30 days could be fined $10,000-$50,000 per incident and up to $1.5 Million.
- A covered entity that acted with willful neglect and failed to make a timely correction could be fined $50,000 per incident and up to $1.5 Million