As a medical professional, it is becoming increasingly necessary to have a web presence. We all know that HIPAA compliance is an important consideration for any medical practice, but do you actually know if the forms on your website are compliant? Do you need to have a HIPAA-compliant website in the first place? This is an issue that all medical practices face with advancements in technology and the use of website design to capture patient information online.
The HIPAA Security Rules apply to health care plans, health clearinghouses, and to any healthcare provider who transmits protected health information (PHI) electronically. Basically if you plan on having a customer submit protected information via your website, you need to have a HIPAA compliant website.
A lot of people think when they redesign their website for a doctor’s office or another healthcare organization, they have to make the entire website HIPAA compliant. Many believe it needs to be hosted on a super-secure, extremely expensive server and that you’ve got to jump through a bunch of hoops. They get really, really concerned about their entire website following these guidelines.
However, this is not always the case. The only time you should ever be worried about being in HIPAA compliance is if you are collecting extremely sensitive information directly through your website — you know the kind of information that needs to be stored properly and protected just as if you had received this information with a pen and paper from a patient in your practice. The good news is that unless you’re trying to have direct interaction with your patients, or more specifically their medical records online, you can have a website which markets and provides information about your specific healthcare practice without really needing to stress any HIPAA-compliant details at all.
Your website can be focused on conveying information to the community, to your audience, to potential patients. As long as you are not collecting sensitive information you can host your website on a standard platform. You do not have to worry about jumping through all of the HIPAA-compliant hoops that you have to on the transactional side of things.
To give you an example… Let’s say you have a informative healthcare website and you are running an informational blog for prospects in the community; maybe you are running a podcast about healthy living; maybe you are hosting videos about how to treat a cut; maybe you are posting clinic hours or physician information. You are only putting things on your website that really help market your practice to the community, and that does not have anything to do with being HIPAA-compliant, because you’re just conveying information, you’re getting found on search results, you’re publishing information so you can grow website traffic – you are not transmitting any personal sensitive patient data.
If you want to collect sensitive information over the web, there are many third-party tools that you can link to. It’s very common for the main part of your website to focus on information and marketing, and then link over to a third party software provider to handle your HIPAA-compliant data collection needs. It can still create a seamless experience for your customer, and remove the messy headache of trying to handle compliance on your own.
The most important thing to be aware of is the difference between informational components of your website versus collecting private information from your patients electronically. If you collect and transmit patient data, you need a HIPAA-compliant website or third party service to integrate with your website. If your website is purely informational and you are not collecting or transmitting patient data, you do not need to worry about HIPAA.