Keeping PHI Secure: A Guide to Choosing a HIPAA Compliant Chat API

If your business handles protected health information (PHI), your chat app has to be HIPAA-compliant. This guide can help you choose a HIPAA compliant chat API.

Team CometChat • Apr 21, 2020

There's a hacker attack every 39 seconds.

Hackers are continuously finding new ways to steal data. Most companies protect and encrypt their email channels. Many don't think of protecting areas like chat rooms or video calling.

IP addresses, file attachments, and images can spread fast through private chats. They can also spread through group chats and other collaboration channels. As a result, data gets stolen, companies lose money, and HIPAA laws get broken.

The only way to combat the issue is to use a HIPAA compliant chat API.

Do you want to learn more about HIPAA laws and how to ensure you're using a HIPAA compliant chat? This guide will break it down for you.

What Is HIPAA?

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Enacted in 1996, HIPAA is a United States federal law that ensures your private health information stays secure.

HIPAA includes regulations for how healthcare providers and businesses should and can handle data and health information. Those regulations and standards are required to ensure PHI data is stored, managed, and accessed correctly at any time of the day.

HIPAA laws include specified penalties and fines for those organizations or individuals that opt not to comply with HIPAA standards.

What Is PHI?

PHI, or protected health information, includes information such as:

  • Medical records, including everything from an MRI scan to blood test results

  • Billing records and payment methods at any medical office

  • Conversations between any parties, including you and your doctor, your doctor and their staff, your insurance company and your health provider, etc.

  • Any emails, notes, texts, video chats, and other correspondence

How Are HIPAA Laws Followed?

HIPAA laws are clear and easy to follow. For a business associate or covered entity to be compliant with HIPAA law, they must do these 4 things:

  • Have safeguards in place so that PHI data is protected always

  • Restrict access to PHI data to only those employees or people needed to accomplish the purpose at hand

  • Have BAAs (Business Associate Agreements) with service providers in place to ensure PHI data stays secure

  • Have policies and procedures to limit access to PHI data, and to have the training to teach users and employees about privacy and data security

What Technical Safeguards Do SaaS Companies Use to Ensure HIPAA Compliancy?

There are 4 HIPAA rules - security, privacy, enforcement, and breach notification. Developers and service providers must pay extra attention to the security rules as they set the tone for how PHI data must be handled and managed.

The security rule uses 4 Technical Safeguards to make sure data is safe, access is controlled, and that only properly authenticated users are authorized.

Access Control dictates that there must be procedures and policies in place to ensure that only authorized users are granted access to PHI data. These policies might include emergency access procedures, encryption procedures, and unique identifiers from user to user.

Audit Controls mandate that certain mechanisms should be in effect to examine access by individuals and activity in the system.

Integrity Controls say that PHI data must never be improperly destroyed or altered. In turn, there must be procedures in place so that if a breach does occur, auditors can figure out how and why it happened.

Transmission Security dictates that security measures should be in place to ensure no unauthorized access to PHI data happens when it's transferred over a network.

Who Must Comply With HIPAA?

When HIPAA was first enacted, the purpose was to provide a safe way for people to transfer employment and doctors using their same health insurance policies and information. Initially, it was only hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies that had to comply with HIPAA specifications.

The reason for this is because at first, these were the only people and places with access to PHI data. Under HIPAA law, these "covered entities" include any organization that provides treatment, payment, and health care operations, such as:

  • Hospitals

  • Doctors and medical offices

  • Pharmacies

  • Insurance Companies

  • HMOs

In 2013, HIPAA decided to take into account the fact that health care across the country was outsourcing and using cloud providers. Now, these services must all stay HIPAA compliant too. They're called "business associates," and they include any service that transmits, stores, or receives PHI data.

These business associates include:

  • SaaS companies that provide cloud-based and electronic health information and records for medical professionals

  • Medical transcription services that provide services to doctors and other health professionals

  • Analytics companies that process medical data

What Are the Benefits of Staying HIPAA Compliant?

Aside from following the law, there are many other benefits of staying HIPAA compliant and only investing in services that are as well. Here are some of those benefits:

  • You'll open your organization up to new customers

  • You'll save money by limiting your vulnerability to a breach

  • You'll gain trust from other businesses who can rest assured knowing your data is protected

  • Your employees will understand practices necessary to keep data safe, ensuring your "human firewall" is strong

  • It reduces your organizational and individual liability

  • You'll avoid additional and expensive add-on security

  • I'll reduce medical errors

  • You'll improve the quality of care and increase patient satisfaction

How Can HIPAA Compliant Chat API Help?

Think about cloud-based services for a moment. HIPAA laws changed only 7 years ago to account for this new means for communication and data storage. HIPAA laws continue to change as the need for advanced security and protection changes too.

Hackers are continuously finding new ways to breach data. Plus, many breaches occur simply because of inadequate employee training. It can be something as simple as an opened hyperlink in a group chat that provides an entryway for an attack on PHI data.

Medical chat rooms, healthcare messaging apps, and video conferencing provide new ways for hackers and individuals to breach sensitive information. Any chat app used in the medical community should be HIPAA compliant as HIPAA chat API connects patients and providers, avoiding any compliance issues.

Why CometChat?

CometChat is a cloud-hosted chat platform. CometChat's products are made specifically to help any company, individual, or organization build chat features into their business.

Do your teachers need a way to securely connect with their students? Does your delivery app need a way to ensure communication between drivers and customers is secure? Do you need to build trust between your buyers and sellers?

Whether it's a group chat, live chat, private chat you need, and whether it's text, voice, or video, CometChat can help build customized HIPAA compliant chat solutions for your needs.

What Are the Benefits of Using HIPAA Compliant Chat API?

When you use HIPAA compliant instant messaging, your employees can communicate in a more efficient, streamlined manner, without having to worry about a breach in security. A truly HIPAA compliant service should enable users to send patient charts, prescribed medications, X-rays, and other sensitive information by simply attaching it to a message.

With HIPAA chat API services, you'll never have to worry about compliance risks. Healthcare organizations and hospitals that don't follow HIPAA's regulations can find themselves owing $50,000 for just a single infraction and up to $1.5 million for repeated ones. Following government sanctions by investing in HIPAA compliant chat services will save you from potential penalties and fines in the future.

Loudspeakers and pagers are a thing of the past. Plus, they take too long.

Everyone has a mobile phone with them, though, almost wherever they go. Sending a mobile message to a medical professional on the device they carry around at all times is much more efficient than waiting for a page to get returned. Plus, going mobile inevitably improves the quality of patient care.

With HIPAA compliant instant messaging, you can smash the language barrier, too, with real-time message translation.

HIPAA Chat API Is a Small Price to Pay

CometChat exists to keep private information safe. Built into the cloud, CometChat services are always available, and there's always someone to help at any time of night or day.

Don't wait to protect your employees, your patients or customers, and yourself. With HIPAA compliant chat API, the hard part is done for you. You don't have to worry about HIPAA laws or the possibility of losing customer data and trust.

All you have to do is to educate your staff and ensure they have the proper tools and information to communicate efficiently and safely.

Do you have questions about how it works? Contact us at any time! Ready to get started? You can get started here for free!

Team CometChat

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