If you are either scaling up your business or trying to make a name for yourself in the digital landscape, building an E-commerce site or any kind of website is usually the first step you will take. For organizations in the healthcare industry, however, designing a site isn’t simply composed of creating content and moving things around to make your space on the internet more accommodating for your visitors and clients.
Medical providers need to supply an added layer of protection for the safety of their clients. Healthcare websites need to be HIPAA-compliant and secure. Failure to do so may cause irreparable damage to your reputation as well as hefty fines and penalties.
If you are new to all of this and you don’t know where to begin, there’s no need to worry. Below are the fundamentals of building a website that is both effective and HIPAA-compliant.
Before delving into the details of creating a HIPAA-compliant website, you must first understand the basics of HIPAA.
HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was created to regulate how PHI or Protected Health Information is secured. PHI is any data or demographic information that can be used to identify a patient. These include a patient’s name, address, date of birth, address, email address, and medical record.
Nowadays, even simply scheduling an appointment requires the use of PHI. Since these data are sensitive, healthcare providers and vendors who encounter PHI in their day-to-day processes must comply with HIPAA regulations.
Under HIPAA, providers are called “covered entities” while vendors are “business associates.” What this means is that whether you are a telehealth service provider or a physician or your organization is in dental practice, you need a HIPAA-compliant website that secures the PHI of anyone who will use it.
Does My Website Need To Be HIPAA-Compliant?
The next step you should take before designing a website that builds trust through HIPAA compliance is to ask yourself if you need to be worrying about this in the first place. The following key questions will help you determine this:
- Am I collecting PHI on my website?
- Am I keeping PHI on a server on my website?
- Am I transmitting PHI through my website?
If you answered yes to all of the above, then your website needs to be HIPAA-compliant.
However, if you are unsure, let’s take a look at each even further:
You are collecting PHI if your website requests any individual identifiable medical information. This includes conditions, symptoms, or requested health services.
In this case, you may receive PHI through:
- Live chat
- Online patient forms
- Patient portals
- Patient testimonials or reviews
- Contact forms that ask about medications, medical services, symptoms, and other information related to the patient’s health
If you are storing information, take note that the Privacy Rule of HIPAA requires you to keep PHI in a protected manner. If you are storing any identifiable medical information on a server, then you must ensure that the server is secure and encrypted.
If you are sending PHI via email, electronic forms, or digital messaging, then you need to stay HIPAA-compliant when transmitting the information. All the emails servers, electronic forms, and digital messaging platforms included in your process must be encrypted and secure.
Building A HIPAA-Compliant Website
Now that you know whether or not your website should abide by HIPAA, here are key concerns that should guide you as you create a secure site for you, your employees, and your patients.
1. HIPAA Privacy Rule
The cornerstone of any HIPAA-compliant website is the HIPAA Privacy Rule. These apply to all healthcare providers, plans, and clearinghouses. Business associates or organizations handling health information on your behalf are also considered.
HIPAA’s Privacy Rule mandates that there should be safeguards in place to protect the privacy of health information. Understanding the rule will also help you know the rights patients have related to their information such as the right to ask for corrections on their health information and the right to get a copy of it should they please.
2. SSL Encryption
To encrypt all the data that is in motion between the server and the client device, implementing a secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption certificate for your website is a must. This transitions your site from HTTP to the more secure HTTPS protocol.
3. Healthcare-Focused Infrastructure
No matter what industry you are in, looking for a hosting plan for your website can be a bit of a pain. However, for organizations that handle PHI, choosing the right host is one of the first few steps you will need to take to secure your site.
Always check if the hosting provider follows HIPAA’s Privacy Rule and Security Rule. It must also have technical, administrative, and physical safeguards in place to prove its commitment.
4. HIPAA-Compliant Website Platform
As much as possible, use a HIPAA-compliant platform. To achieve a compliant environment, you have to put yourself in your clients’ shoes and think about how they will navigate and make use of your site. The way patients will utilize your site will directly drive what security measures you will need to set in place.
For example, if you are collecting information through forms on your website, you need to ensure that all data is protected as per HIPAA rules. Any form that collects data must have a defense against unauthorized access and potential data breaches.
5. Multi-Factor Authentication
A multi-factor authentication access system is a must if you want your website to be completely secure. Ensure that this system can perform diagnostics on devices to ensure their health. By scanning for outdated applications and enforcing security controls, a secure system guarantees that infected and high-risk devices can be easily blocked.
When building a website for the purpose of healthcare, it’s always important to think of the welfare and security of the people who will be using your website—especially if you will be collecting, storing, and transmitting their PHI. A HIPAA-compliant website is a website that can be trusted.