The Case for Encryption in Healthcare

Privacy is essential in the healthcare industry. Healthcare practitioners of all kinds are bound by professional and ethical standards—not to mention the law, in most jurisdictions—to keep patient information confidential and secure. This includes not only anything learned through conversations with patients, but also data kept on file—medical records, credit card information, social security numbers and more.

If you’re sending, receiving or holding sensitive information, you’re responsible for keeping it safe and secure. If your security is compromised, there may be serious implications for you as a healthcare provider, your patients and their families, including embarrassment, personal identity loss, and even legal ramifications.

Secure email

Many healthcare practitioners are hesitant to use email when communicating with patients, believing that it’s inherently insecure. And if you’re using certain email programs or services that don’t come with enhanced, industry-standard encryption, you may be right. But some email services use encryption to provide security for email—essentially scrambling a message so that it is unreadable to anyone who cannot access the key needed to unscramble it. Secure email services enable you to keep information safe while it’s being stored, sent or received, while taking advantage of the benefits of electronic communication, whether it’s through your computer or your iPhone.

HIPAA compliance

Another concern with using email for patient communications is HIPAA compliance. HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, contains various protections mandating confidential handling of patients’ protected health information. Many practitioners assume that all email communication containing sensitive patient information is forbidden, but that’s not the case. Secure email services with industry-standard encryption which provide you with a BAA (Business Associate Agreement) can support HIPAA compliance and ensure you meet the requirements for patient confidentiality.

Other uses of encryption

There are many convenient uses for electronic communications in a healthcare context, made possible by encryption:

  • To set up or confirm appointments
  • To discuss medical conditions with specialists or other practitioners
  • To send or receive lab results
  • To send patient information to medical billing or insurance organizations

The key is to use a service that provides security for patients’ health information, ensuring all data is safe and secure. The right encrypted email service should be easy to set up and use, and support compliance with all the applicable rules and regulations around HIPAA compliance and confidentiality. It will provide a convenient way to connect with patients and other industry partners, and offer peace of mind from knowing your interactions and information won’t be comprised.