As more patients rely on the internet for healthcare needs, the provider’s role in keeping PHI secure gets more complicated.
A medical practice website goes well beyond referrals and driving new patients. Today, patients expect to be able to conduct much of their healthcare experience directly from their provider’s website or portal. From telehealth consultations to patient information gathering, scheduling and payments, patients want to rely on the internet for their healthcare needs just as they do for on-demand grocery delivery.
The biggest issue with websites for healthcare providers is HIPAA compliance. Providers need to ensure that patient privacy is not at risk. Having necessary protections in place makes it possible for patients to submit forms online, puts lab information at the click of a button, and allows providers to share important information with patients. If healthcare providers attempt to complete these types of tasks without ensuring HIPAA compliance, it not only hurts their reputation, it can also lead to hefty fines. Ultimately, a web presence is most effective when the provider and the patient can trust that the site is secure and that PHI is protected.
A HIPAA compliant website follows the standards for the privacy and security of protected health information (PHI), which is information that can be used to identify a patient. HIPAA protects your patients and binds you to patient-provider confidentiality, except in special circumstances. This protection extends to your website— specifically, any and all patient information collected and stored there. In order to protect your practice from violating a HIPAA regulation, you need to know what falls under the category of “protected information,” how that information may be collected and stored on your website, and how to make your website HIPAA compliant.
Are you collecting PHI on your site?
PHI is all identifiable patient information related to healthcare, including their payment information used to pay for services, patient surveys, online patient forms, and live chat.
Are you transmitting PHI through your site?
The risk of unlawful transmission can occur when you grant third-party vendors access to your website - such as payment merchants or tech support.
Are you storing PHI on a server that is connected to your site?
Worried your website might not be HIPAA compliant? Here are some initial steps towards changing that and safeguarding your practice from a HIPAA violation.
Step 1 - Encryption
Make sure your website and all online tools within it are encrypted, including your email servers. An SSL certificate can help you do this. Businesses in the healthcare industry must have a Secure Sockets Layers (SSL) certificate for their website. This lets visitors know they’re visiting a legitimate website, ensures the encryption of transmitted data and reduces the chance that sensitive information like credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, email addresses, medical information, and other personal information gets tampered with or stolen. Although important for every business, an SSL certificate is crucial for any business in the healthcare industry.
You will also want to source out a website hosting service that is HIPAA compliant. This will help protect your patient’s information from outside sources.
Step 2 - Data Backup and Permanent Deletion
Not only is data encryption necessary, but the data backup storage must be secure as well. HIPAA also mandates that all data that is no longer relevant to your business is permanently deleted.
Step 3 - Vendor and User Access
The second step towards making sure your website is HIPAA compliant is to restrict access to PHI to only those who need access to it for business or provider reasons. Have all of your third-party vendors sign a business associate agreement, and have all of your internal staff sign an agreement to never share protected health information unwillingly and unlawfully. Train your staff so that they know what these terms mean and how to avoid them.
The Solution: An Experienced Healthcare Website Design Partner
Let’s Talk Interactive has years of experience developing user-friendly, HIPAA-compliant websites for healthcare providers that incorporate reliable telemedicine software suites and virtual clinics. Our team of developers understands that providers have unique needs. We work directly with you to develop a telemedicine solution that allows you to remain competitive while increasing patient satisfaction and the chance of referrals.
Our development team has experience in encryption and security, as well as website development, front-end design, HIPAA compliant websites, patient and provider portals, content management, e-commerce, and web apps, along with API integration into a host of EMR/EHR platforms and medical devices.
We support a wide variety of use cases. If you don't see yours here, get in touch to learn how our platform can be configured to fit your needs.
Our experienced team asks the right questions to understand your unique business and objectives. We utilize a thorough needs-based assessment to suggest the best products and solutions to fit your goals and objectives. Our culture emphasizes the value of creating lasting relationships with our clients, where we continue to grow together.