The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) acts as a regulatory standard to protect patients’ sensitive data from leaking or being used for malicious intent. Entities within an organization are composed of either the Covered Entities or Business Associates.
Simply put, Covered Entities are the ones who provide treatment and operations in the healthcare system and Business Associates are the ones who have access to the information of the patients and they are also the ones who provide support to the Covered Entities for treatments and operations.
Under HIPAA, any information about the patient’s health status, health care provision and payment are classified as protected health information (PHI). The law dictates that Covered Entities and Business Associates should ensure that the patients’ information is protected and that all the necessary security measures are in place and strictly followed within the organization.
This means that whether you are a dentist or doctor who treats the patients or you are on the technological side of the medical business who manages the websites and database of medical and dental practices, you have the responsibility to comply with the HIPAA security standards.
Most dental and medical practices utilize technology to make things seamless for patients. For example, medical and dental practitioners set up websites so their patients can easily look for the information that they need about the health professionals and the treatments that they provide. By having a website, patients can also book appointments anytime using their computers and their mobile phones.
However, the Internet is also a dangerous place for the sensitive information of the patients. There were numerous instances that the patients’ data were either leaked or hacked. Just imagine the dangers that the patient’s information face without HIPAA policies and procedures. That is why it is important for businesses to ensure that their websites are HIPAA compliant not just for the sake of the patients but also for the sake of their business.
But, how can you make your healthcare website HIPAA compliant?
Should You Have an HIPAA-Compliant Website?
Before you make your website compliant to the HIPAA standards, you should find out first if you need to do so. There are things that you need to consider before you dedicate your time and effort in making sure that your website complies with the HIPAA policies.
First, you should ask yourself if your website transmits PHI. If you have a website that acts as a simple gateway that your patients can visit to get information about your services, then you are already in the clear because you are not transmitting sensitive patient information.
The second factor to consider is if your website collects and stores sensitive patient data. If your website is designed to collect patient information through forms and store them in your servers, then it is a must to make your website HIPAA compliant.
For example, the dental clients that we work with will have a book appointment page where patients can schedule an appointment directly from the website by entering their information in a form. This information is stored on the backend of the website, so this is an example of the website needing to be HIPPA compliant!
How to Make Your Website HIPAA Compliant?
Now that you have identified that your website needs to comply with HIPAA policies, it is time to implement the standards that HIPAA enforces. Here is a checklist of the things that you need to make sure your website can comply with the national regulation:
SSL certificates initiate a secure connection from the web server to the browser. These digital certificates ensure that all the data that passes between the website and the visitor’s browser remain secure so hackers could not access it and steal private information from patients.
An SSL certificate in one of the first things that you should make sure to install on your website. With this, you can give your patients the peace of mind knowing that their data is safe whenever they visit your website. SSL certificates use the https protocol, and it is the easiest way to check if your website already has one. If your URL starts with “https://,” then your website already has an SSL certificate.
To get an SSL certificate for your website, you can contact your web hosting provider. You need to buy an SSL certificate from your web hosting provider and install it on your website. Usually, SSL certificates are included in the package of services that hosting companies offer to their clients.
Once you are done purchasing and installing an SSL certificate on your website, you can now use the HTTPS protocol.
Encrypted and Secure Forms
Patient forms and other kinds of embedded forms are the primary way of collecting data from patients. Since this is the most common way of acquiring information from patients, hackers target the embedded forms on websites and compromise it so they can steal sensitive information from the patients.
You can add an extra layer of protection to your website by encrypting your forms. Depending on your CMS platform, you can easily toggle form encryption on and off using a simple interface. If you have built your form from scratch, you can also add additional codes that will help secure your forms. By enforcing security protocols to your forms, you can help protect the data of your visitors.
Adding Recaptcha options to your form will also provide an extra layer of security. This way, you can stop bots from spamming your forms and compromising the security of your patients’ data.
Encrypt Your Email Servers
Emails are also vulnerable to privacy attacks because these are the most common method of communication between health professionals and patients. By encrypting your email servers, you will be able to keep safe and secure communication with your patients.
You can encrypt your mail servers with digital certificates that will prevent attacks from penetrating your servers. Email platforms also provide encryption options. Outlook, for example, will let you encrypt your email by changing your settings in the app itself.
Choose HIPAA Web Hosting Providers
Since HIPAA is a national regulation, many web hosting companies also provide web hosting services that specifically target medical and dental practices. By choosing a web hosting provider that specializes in providing HIPAA compliant services, you will have a head start in keeping your website compliant to HIPAA policies. These kinds of web hosting providers usually offer HIPAA compliant privacy and security measures to their web hosting packages. These are some HIPAA compliant web hosting providers that you can choose from:
Make Third-Party Service Providers Accountable
When running your business, there is a great possibility that you will need third-party services for things that you are not familiar with. Creating and maintaining a website is one such aspect that you will most likely outsource to others. Besides, having someone who will take care of the technical aspects of your practice will help you focus on your patients more.
But, hiring third-party services can compromise the security of your patients’ information. You can avoid this by letting them sign a Business Associate Agreement with you. Through this, you will also be able to set guidelines and protocols on how the third-party service providers will handle any PHI.
Complying with HIPAA standards will ensure that your patients are always protected. HIPAA also imposes penalties to violators. You do not want to receive penalties as the credibility of your medical and dental practice will suffer.
Med Rank Interactive works with medical and dental professionals to make sure that their websites are HIPAA compliant. We value your patients the same way that you do, and we always make sure to protect their personal information with our reliable digital marketing services. Contact us at 980-217-1633 for a free consultation.