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How to Make a Website HIPAA Compliant

When a medical practice, clinic, pharmacy, nursing home, or healthcare provider has an online presence that transfers medical information, they must follow HIPAA regulations.

Edona Shala

Content Writer

How to Make a Website HIPAA Compliant

When a medical practice, clinic, pharmacy, nursing home, or healthcare provider has an online presence that transfers medical information, they must follow HIPAA regulations.

 

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, requires all companies that interact with patient data to keep it secure and private. The key aspect of creating a HIPAA-compliant website is how your website handles Protected Health Information or PHI.

 

According to research, 80% of respondents use the internet to conduct a healthcare-related search. Additionally, 63% of the respondents said they would choose one provider over another if it had a strong online presence and offered compelling, accurate, and relevant information.

 

Customers trust physicians and caregivers with their health, and they want to know that their medical data is in good hands as well. That is why you need to invest in a strong HIPAA-compliant website.

 

In this guide, we’ll explain how to make a website HIPAA-compliant.

HIPAA Compliance for Websites

Understanding what compliance actually involves is the first step.

 

Anyone who comes into contact with protected health information, from medical records to a patient’s home address, must protect that information’s privacy and follow rules for its use and disclosure.

 

These rules apply to anyone who comes into contact with patient information. This includes healthcare providers, administrative staff, bill collectors, and even the maintenance team. Compliance requires that procedures be put in place to protect sensitive information and keep it confidential.

 

When it comes to websites, this generally refers to the security of the information as it is stored online. Also, the processes and procedures used to access it, both from a patient’s and a healthcare professional’s perspective.

 

A HIPAA-compliant website protects everyone involved in a patient’s care. From web hosting to data entry protocols and passwords. HIPAA compliance rules apply to your website if you collect or store any protected health information.

How to Make a Website HIPAA Compliant

The HIPAA Security Rule outlines the criteria for secure electronic storage and transmission of sensitive patient data. While moving patient information online has made healthcare administration more efficient and mobile. It has also increased the security risks that medical professionals face.

 

Here are seven steps to follow to make sure your website complies with HIPAA regulations.

1

Use HIPAA-Compliant Web Hosting

Your web host is the first line of defense against compromised patient data. Find out if your current host has HIPAA-compliant procedures in place. If they don’t, it’s time to look for another host.

 

HIPAA website hosting is an important first line of PHI defense. Regular scans and updates can prevent the compromise of sensitive data.

 

The HIPAA Security Rule is an application of the Privacy Rule. Whether an organization produces, receives, sends, stores, or otherwise handles electronic health information, the rule sets national standards to protect it.

 

It requires the implementation of “reasonable and appropriate” technical, physical, and administrative safeguards to ensure HIPAA-compliant ePHI security, integrity, and confidentiality.

 

The simplest way to follow the security rule is to look for HIPAA-compliant website hosting providers.

2

Install an SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate establishes a secure connection between your website and the visitor’s browser. This ensures that all PHI transmitted between the two is secure and private. SSL certificates ensure that data is encrypted from end to end and it is not readable by third parties.

 

There are some low-cost and free SSL certificate providers. But be careful, free SSL certificates often don’t offer the most rigid security and may not always be HIPAA compliant.

3

HIPAA Compliant Patient Intake Forms

A web form is any information-gathering form that a patient or client fills out. Desktop or mobile forms that collect medical and health insurance information are common examples. This data is then compiled to create long-term, centralized medical records.

 

HIPAA-compliant web forms encrypt the connection between the browser and the website, protecting information entered on the site or web forms from unauthorized access.

4

HIPAA Compliant Contact Forms

A contact form is any page that allows patients to submit information. This includes things like pre-visit health surveys, patient portals, and live chat options. Even the most basic contact form needs to be secure. Someone contacting a doctor will not want anyone to have easy access to their inquiries about specific health issues.

5

Encrypt the Data You Collect

By encrypting the data you collect, you can convert PHI into unreadable text that only you can decipher using software or algorithms that only you have access to. This protects your data in the event of a breach or theft, and it makes the data useless to anyone who obtains it illegally.

 

If you allow patients to use your website’s contact forms, chatbots, or appointment services, make sure they are encrypted and secure.

6

Business Associate Agreement

If you intend to collaborate with any third-party providers or businesses on the handling of ePHI, you must sign a business associate agreement (BAA) with them. It is important for compliance that you validate all health data that you store and that it is securely transmitted through your site.

 

The Business Associate Agreement applies to all third-party service providers.

7

Restrict PHI Access

The HIPAA Minimum Necessary Standard, which is a part of the Privacy Rule, states that not every office employee needs to have access to PHI and that the same is true for online access.

 

Just because someone works for a medical group does not mean they need access to all PHI to do their job. This means that you should restrict access to PHI only to the staff who need it.

8

HIPAA Compliance Training for the Staff

Without proper training, you can’t expect your employees to understand and follow all HIPAA’s sometimes-complex rules.

 

Once you’ve updated your website to be HIPAA compliant, it’s essential to provide company-wide compliance training. Everyone will be on the same page about the basics of HIPAA compliance, as well as what they have to do to help reduce breaches of data.

 

Consider offering the training on an annual basis as a refresher or if security issues seem to be increasing.

The HIPAA Compliance Rules

HIPAA security rules define how covered organizations and business associates safeguard protected health information (PHI). The four rules are:

  • HIPAA Privacy Rule
  • HIPAA Security Rule
  • HIPAA Enforcement Rule
  • HIPAA Breach Notification Rule

 

Only the first three rules apply to covered entities and their business associates in the normal course of business. The final rule applies when someone compromises HIPAA websites and poses a risk of compromising PHI.

 

HIPAA-compliant solutions come in a variety of sizes and shapes. PHI regulations apply to everything from a simple online pharmacy to a complex doctor-patient portal to a mobile application.

 

HIPAA compliance rules generally restrict healthcare providers from sharing or exposing confidential information in electronic, written, or oral forms.

 

  • The Privacy Rule covers computer information about patients, doctor-patient conversations, billing information, medical charts, and prescriptions.
  • The Security Rule establishes and governs the standards, methods, and processes for electronic PHI storage, accessibility, and transmission.

 

When businesses are non-compliant, the HIPAA Enforcement Rule centers on investigations and penalties.

 

Breaches happen when unauthorized individuals access protected health information in a way that is not allowed by the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Unauthorized access to physical areas, stolen or misplaced documents, and digital hacks are examples of breaches.

Final Thoughts

For healthcare providers with an online presence, creating a HIPAA-compliant website is essential. Websites that handle Protected Health Information (PHI) must follow HIPAA regulations.

 

By implementing these measures, you can ensure the privacy and security of patient data while also retaining their trust.

 

When you use secure online forms and encrypted data to protect PHI, your website has the key components needed to be HIPAA compliant. It is also safe for your patients to use, all while supporting your marketing efforts.

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