HIPAA’s Privacy Implications

“A covered entity may not contractually authorize its business associate to make any use or disclosure of protected health information that would violate the rule.”   – HIPAA Legislation

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), in conjunction with the new Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, defines requirements and penalties for all parties who have access to confidential information. References

If you’re concerned with the risks of text messaging, some Frequently Asked Questions about HIPAA/HITECH might be helpful to you.

Once a message leaves our facilities for delivery to you, other considerations apply. Some of these considerations are outlined in the table below, in approximate order of decreasing security (increasing vulnerability).

Security of Message Delivery Methods

Method Security Level Primary vulnerability
FAX Generally considered secure FAX being picked up from recipient machine by unauthorized party (physical security)
Voice phone call Generally considered secure Eavesdropping (especially in a wireless or cordless environment)
Text messaging via secure mobile option Generally considered secure Access to recipient’s device by unauthorized individual
Alpha Pager (TAP modem protocol) Generally considered reasonably secure Interception by specialized radio equipment during the broadcast from tower to pager.
E-mail message to secure server & client combination Generally considered reasonably secure Hacking of e-mail account
SMS Text Message to cell phone Generally considered insecure Exposure of clear-text message on the internet or wireless network, loss or theft of phone
E-mail message to public server / client combination (Hotmail, Yahoo, etc.) Generally considered insecure Exposure of clear-text message on the public internet, hacking of e-mail account

 

We recommend the use of a secure method for sending any patient-related health information. Answer Excellence’s Secure Messaging system controls access to sensitive information.

If you have any questions about the security of your message delivery, we will be happy to talk with you. You can call us at 800-854-6018.

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