HIPAA Compliant Email

If your practice uses email for patient communication, you need to make sure it’s HIPAA compliant. This means ensuring that messages containing ePHI are secure in transit and at rest, implementing access controls and using encryption.

In addition, you need to have a business associate agreement in place with the email service provider and implement procedures for backups, retention and archiving emails containing ePHI. Additionally, your staff must be trained on these policies.


Encryption is one of the most common and effective safeguards to prevent the loss or theft of HIPAA compliant email. It also prevents unauthorized individuals from reading the contents of emails and attachments.

In addition, it protects against malware, phishing attacks, and other online threats. It also allows users to securely store and access their messages in a cloud-based repository, which makes it easy to keep track of important correspondence.

Unlike Transport Layer Security (TLS), which only provides encryption during email transfer, end-to-end email encryption ensures that emails and their attachments remain encrypted throughout the entire message chain. This means that only the sender and intended recipient can decrypt the message, which is a huge improvement over traditional TLS.

To meet HIPAA’s stringent security standards, it’s necessary to use end-to-end encryption, which guarantees that the content of the message remains unreadable by unauthorized parties. This is especially important when sharing sensitive information with patients, their families, and medical professionals, as it helps prevent a potential data breach that can result in fines.

For this reason, it’s recommended that all healthcare organizations and their business associates perform a risk analysis to determine what safeguards are necessary to protect ePHI. This will allow them to create a risk management plan that addresses the specific requirements of their organization.

This process can include implementing training and ensuring that all employees know the proper procedures for transmitting ePHI over email. For example, it’s recommended that staff be educated about the importance of encrypting all outgoing ePHI, and that they be trained to revoke access to emails shared in error by other recipients.

In addition, organizations should consider using an email service or secure messaging portal that encrypts all outgoing messages, as this is the best way to protect ePHI from unauthorized recipients. For example, Virtru offers an end-to-end email encryption solution that can be easily installed on an organization’s servers and used in conjunction with any existing email client.

Other options for HIPAA compliant email encryption include Barracuda, Egress, Hushmail, Indentillect, LuxSci, MailHippo, and Protected Trust. All of these services sign BAAs with their clients for HIPAA compliance and offer free trials to help organizations decide if they are the right fit.

Access Controls

HIPAA compliant email requires access controls that allow authorized individuals to only access PHI they need to perform their jobs. This includes user authentication, authorization, encryption and audit logs. These controls can also be applied to networks, files, web servers and other IT resources.

Access control can be implemented through a number of methods, including virtual private networks (VPNs), network firewalls and network security appliances. VPNs can help organizations protect their network against attacks from outside hackers or spoofing, while firewalls and network security appliances can prevent malicious programs from infiltrating the system.

Using VPNs can be particularly effective when employees work out of the office, because it allows them to use a VPN to connect to the organization’s network and secure sensitive information. However, it’s important to remember that when a VPN is used, the organization’s network may experience some latency or performance issues.

For this reason, the most effective way to secure an organization’s email is by implementing a robust and comprehensive email archiving solution. This will ensure that all emails are encrypted at the source before they are sent to an archive.

In addition, a BAA should be entered into with the service provider, and reasonable assurances obtained that they will follow HIPAA Rules. If a violation is found, both parties will be held responsible for paying fines.

A reputable email archiving solution will offer a suite of features, such as encryption, access controls and security policies. It will also provide a central repository that can be used for legal discovery or compliance audits.

When deciding which email archiving solution to choose, it is important to understand that each one will likely require customization. Some services are able to integrate with the email providers that the organizations already use, such as Gmail and Outlook. This makes them easy to configure and use, but it’s important to understand that these services don’t automatically encrypt emails by default, so the organization must implement a separate HIPAA compliant email archiving solution in order to meet its compliance requirements.

Another option for healthcare organizations is to use a secure text messaging service, as this can also provide additional layers of protection from email threats. While this solution will need to be configured by the healthcare organization, it can be an effective alternative to email when sending PHI to patients. In addition, it will be more convenient for the patient to receive their messages and may help improve their overall satisfaction.


BAAs, or Business Associate Agreements, are a crucial part of HIPAA compliance. They ensure that your clients’ information is protected, and protect you if there’s ever a breach. However, if they’re not properly executed, businesses can be fined in a number of ways (see the North Memorial Health Care and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan settlements below).

Before you sign a BAA with an email service, make sure it’s secure. Some email services have built-in encryption, but it’s important to check the BAA template and make sure it includes all the necessary safeguards.

Some cloud-based email services, such as Accellion, offer HIPAA-compliant encryption and backups as part of their offerings. Often, they’re also compliant with other aspects of HIPAA like security and access controls.

It’s best to choose a service that offers everything you need under one roof, including email, file sharing, data storage, and other security features that will keep your files secure. This ensures that your practice has one platform to manage all the important aspects of HIPAA compliance.

In addition, you should look for an email service that provides a full-featured email client and supports a number of different encryption methods. You should also make sure that your emails are sent directly to inboxes without going through third-party services. This is especially true for marketing messages that are meant to be read by patients in-person, on the go, or on the go through their mobile devices.

The Office of Civil Rights has been aggressively cracking down on violations of HIPAA across the country, with recent enforcement actions resulting in massive fines and a major uptick in scrutiny on the part of OCR. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re using HIPAA-compliant email to communicate with your patients.

Third-Party Vendors

Email is an effective way to communicate with patients and other healthcare professionals, but it can also be a target for hackers, phishing scams, and more. That’s why it’s important to make sure your email is HIPAA compliant.

The first thing to consider is who you’re sending emails to. HIPAA requires that PHI be sent to only individuals with permission. This means you may need to create a HIPAA-compliant email list of your employees, doctors, and other providers to ensure that only authorized recipients can receive the information.

If you’re not sure who to send your PHI to, a healthcare attorney can help you determine who is entitled to the information and how to send it securely. The most common method for sending PHI is through an encrypted email service or secure message portal, such as Mimecast.

In addition to encrypting the email itself, it’s also important to encrypt the attachment. This protects the content of the message from potential hackers who can read it without being aware that the file is encrypted.

For example, if someone in your organization has an email account on a smartphone, it’s important to encrypt the phone itself so that it can’t be viewed by anyone else. This can help prevent phishing scams, data breaches, and other security issues.

You can also encrypt any information that’s transferred over a public network. This can help to reduce the chances of a data breach, especially if you use public Wi-Fi networks.

When it comes to encryption, there are many options for you to choose from. Some email providers have encryption as a built-in feature, and others can be customized to meet your specific needs. You can also ask a healthcare attorney for advice about encryption and how to encrypt your email files.

Another consideration is who has access to your email server. If you’re storing patient health information on a third-party server, you need to be sure that it’s backed up. This can prevent data breaches or theft of your sensitive patient information.

Finally, it’s important to have a policy in place about the types of devices that your staff can use to access email and other medical data. If you’re a hospital or clinic, this means making sure that any employee who uses a laptop, mobile device, or USB storage device has the proper safeguards in place. It’s especially important if they have access to a patient’s electronic health record.

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