The protection of privacy becomes incredibly important in today’s information age. This is especially important when it comes to matters of medical privacy.
In 2022, upward of 1 million patient records were exposed from just 13 data breaches. If you run a medical or health-related practice of any kind, you understand how important HIPAA compliance is for these sorts of matters.
The same applies to any text messages you send out. How do these messages pertain to HIPAA?
The HIPAA texting requirements below will help keep your practice or business compliant.
What Is HIPAA?
HIPAA is an overarching issue that you need to keep in mind as you run your business – but what exactly is it?
This refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which provides oversight to the medical industry and other related industries. It’s a set of laws and guidelines that focus on protecting the privacy and confidentiality of patients and all of their information.
Staying in compliance is essential both for the protection of your patients, and to avoid serious penalties that can compromise your practice. Some businesses that need to be mindful of HIPAA include:
- Primary care physicians and other medical practices
- Medical office managers
- Mental health counselors and therapists
- Chiropractic professionals
- Dental practices
- Small to mid-size healthcare companies
These rules range from guidelines for texting patient information to information you can disclose to the media.
Many businesses use software solutions to help with their text messaging, and you need to, at the very least, have a professional in charge of compliance. Keep this in mind when searching for HIPAA-compliant services.
Here are some points you should know about HIPAA:
It Builds Trust Between the Patient and Practice
The trust between patients and their medical providers is an essential part of the process. Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath to do everything in their power to care for their patients. This extends beyond physical care and also includes creating an environment where patients feel comfortable receiving care and knowing that their information is kept confidential.
This also allows medical providers to do their jobs better since patients have the freedom to be open and honest. These laws put the patient in control of their information, even to the point that parents, spouses, and other medical professionals cannot access their information without authorization. It’s a healthy environment for optimal medical care across the board.
Today, patient privacy is more important than ever for health and medical practices.
The world is so interconnected and bad actors earn a living stealing information and defrauding people. Major companies every year experience large breaches that put people’s sensitive or personal information at risk.
HIPAA makes it more possible for people to trust that their information is taken care of with every medical visit.
HIPAA Lowers the Likelihood of Healthcare Fraud
Healthcare fraud is a major issue today. According to the National Health Care anti-fraud association, it is a problem that costs the United States $68 billion each year.
This issue is a felony that puts patients in peril and leaves perpetrators subject to expensive fines and jail time. There are a variety of ways that medical fraud is carried out. This includes billing patients for services that they did not receive, billing services that aren’t covered as though they were, and misrepresenting the date of service and the type of service rendered.
HIPAA works to limit the likelihood and frequency of healthcare fraud to prevent all of these issues.
It Keeps You Up-to-Date With Technology
It’s also important to keep up with HIPAA because it lets you stay up to date with the newest and latest technology. Though the Act was passed in 1996, several revisions and updates have been made each year to keep up with the changing and evolving times.
These sorts of regulations are updated to reflect information on how patient records can be stored, use the cloud, HIPAA compliance by text and phone, and other such matters. When your company stays up to date with HIPAA, it also allows you to remain modern as you use the technology of the day.
About 85% of people in the United States own a smartphone. As such, HIPAA has been updated to reflect privacy requirements for texting. These HIPAA guidelines for security are constantly updated to reflect the times and changes in technology.
HIPAA Provides Important Boundaries
More than anything, HIPAA establishes clear boundaries to solidify the relationship between the patient and the provider. This act advocates for patients and lets them know their rights as it pertains to their information. Patients have the right to request and receive any of their health records and medical providers must offer copies.
It increases the transparency between providers and patients and greatly limits how much information third parties are allowed to find out about the patient. The act consistently solidifies the role that healthcare providers play in protecting patients and the public as a whole. This creates fertile ground for quality medical care in all regards.
What Are Some HIPAA Texting Requirements?
Now that you know more about HIPAA, make sure that you learn specifically how this act pertains to texting. Many practices today use SMS messaging to send important information to patients and clients. If this is a tool that you use or intend to use, you must make sure every message sent complies with HIPAA.
One of the best things you can do is invest in a secure texting platform that focuses on HIPAA compliance. It lets you send your messages while providing checks and balances that prevent you from making costly mistakes.
But this begs the important question – what are some HIPAA texting requirements?
Give Proof of Identity Before Sending Messages
One of the main ways that HIPAA is violated is when a person poses as another to receive sensitive patient information. To prevent this, HIPAA requires medical providers to authenticate the identity of the recipient. When sending text messages, make sure that proof of identity is established first.
One of the main ways to do this is by requiring patients to provide identification identifying information when setting up an account. You can require credentials for them to access protected health information. Some ways to do this include the creation of a pin or password, facial recognition, voice recognition, smart keys or tokens, and fingerprints.
Taking these sorts of measures greatly reduces the likelihood of protected health information falling into the wrong hands. This is a substantial step toward maintaining HIPAA compliance with each text message that you send. All of these measures can easily be put into place when using mobile devices.
Provide Safeguards Against Unauthorized Access
Consider your safeguards when sending any sort of message. Using network communication protocols can help with this. You can also use encryption technology so that hackers are not able to view any records sent via text. The messages that you send will be unreadable to anyone who is not authorized to access it.
If you’re going to use text messages, always choose the highest quality, secure form of encryption possible. This reduces the level of risk that you are taking on and goes a long way toward preventing any sort of breaches.
Don’t Change or Edit the Data
Next, make sure that you are maintaining the integrity of the data that you send. Don’t change or edit any information, because this can trigger serious HIPAA violations. Patients need to trust that the information that you’re sending is intact and as you claim.
HIPAA offers strict regulations about not altering or destroying this data in any manner not authorized by the patient. Stay up to date with the HIPAA Security Rule to make sure that you have safeguards in place to prevent any patient data from being accidentally or intentionally altered.
Establish Policies for Authorization
Make sure that you have strict policies and protocols regarding authorization. This way, it is explicitly put into writing who is authorized to access any sort of protected health information.
Putting these matters to policy establishes transparency and keeps you in compliance with the HIPAA Security Rule. The rule dictates who can access or distribute health data in any way, and this also pertains to the use of text messaging systems.
It also requires you to create unique credentials for anyone who has access to the text messaging systems. This allows the data transmissions to be tracked so that an investigation can quickly find out when any unauthorized activity occurred. HIPAA also requires you to have emergency protocols outlined to know who is authorized to quickly access patient information and how they can use it.
If you are using text messaging software, HIPAA also requires the platform to have an idle timer that will log users out for inactivity. Having this safeguard makes sure that unauthorized people are not able to easily access records on another user’s device.
Establish Controls for Reporting and Auditing
HIPAA also requires that companies using text messaging have controls in place for reporting and auditing. These controls must be comprehensive and all-encompassing and should establish procedures for reviewing any data.
Putting these controls into place allows practices to have their protocols for handling information. It lets you use the right infrastructure for reviewing information and making sure that patients are cared for.
What HIPAA Penalties Are You Subject To?
When learning about HIPAA phone laws and text regulations, make sure you are also aware of the potential penalties. These penalties are in place as a deterrent so that practices don’t commit violations, and to protect patients’ privacy.
There are different tiers for penalties that you need to know about, including:
This tier of HIPAA violations refers to situations where a practice made a mistake because they were not aware of protocols. It’s a lack of knowledge level of culpability and is the lowest tier for HIPAA violations. Typically, these penalties are the result of an accident or oversight.
The penalty for a Tier 1 violation starts at $127 and can reach a maximum of $63,973.
This is the next highest tier of HIPAA violations and refers to situations of reasonable cause in which a medical provider should have known better and didn’t exercise enough caution or care. It’s a more serious infraction, with a minimum fine of $1,280.
The maximum fine for a Tier 2 violation is also $63,973.
A Tier 3 violation is far more serious and involves willful neglect. In these situations, a provider knew what they were doing but still committed the violation. As such, the penalties for these violations are more severe.
The fines for a Tier 3 violation start at $12,794, with a maximum fine of $63,973.
Finally, Tier 4 is the highest level of HIPAA violation. It also involves willful neglect but refers to a matter that was allowed to linger uncorrected for 30 days or more.
With a Tier 4 penalty, the minimum fine is $63,973. These penalties carry a maximum fine of $1,919,173.
For all of these penalties, the maximum annual fine is $1,919,173.
HIPAA Texting Requirements 101
These tips will steer you in the right direction when you’re exploring HIPAA texting requirements. HIPAA was put into place to protect patients and to allow providers to operate with more diligence and transparency. These policies have evolved to include text messaging.
If your practice uses any sort of text messaging in conjunction with your care, make sure that you’re staying in compliance. We are also happy to help you out.
At iPlum, we specialize in helping providers do better business by staying in compliance with these details. We take pride in helping you stay in business with lightweight, cost-effective mobile solutions that work.
Take the time to explore our HIPAA-compliant texting and calling solutions and get in touch if you have any questions.