Protect Patient Data with HIPAA Compliant eSignatures

Protect Patient Data with HIPAA Compliant eSignatures

Healthcare organizations that handle patient data must follow strict rules to keep this information private and secure. If you are a medical office, handle medical billing or insurance, or manage health information in any other way, you should already understand what HIPAA compliance entails.

But in an increasingly digital world, sending medical records, collecting form authorizations, and other office processes need to be fast and reliable as well as secure. HIPAA compliant electronic signatures and messages are the best way to save time, balancing modern technology with the security patients expect.

What is HIPAA Compliance?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule is regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is a set of rules that guides entities in how they should use, manage, and disclose protected health information (PHI).

HIPAA compliance is intended to prevent unauthorized access, use, or disclosure of PHI. It also outlines patient rights to access health records, request corrections, and obtain an account of disclosures.

HIPAA’s PHI requirements cover security, but also establish guidelines for notifying impacted individuals as well as HHS in the event of a data breach. Organizations should have an incident response plan in place as a precaution.

What to Include in an Incident Response Policy
Decide and Document:

1. What a security incident is

2. Who is responsible for responding to a security incident

3. Organizational structure:

  • Define roles and responsibilities
  • Define levels of authority

4. Reporting requirements for security incidents


Rules Regarding HIPAA Compliant eSignatures

HIPAA compliance does not dictate whether medical forms need to be signed electronically or by hand. The only concern for organizations that handle patient data is to follow the rules for keeping patient information private.

How to Use HIPAA Compliant Electronic Signatures and Messages

Now more than ever, patients expect the option to sign paperwork or receive messages through email or SMS.

Medical offices and other organizations that work with PHI should take advantage of this preference to simplify office processes.

Common ways you can use HIPAA compliant electronic signatures and messages to streamline office operations:

  • Patient intake and treatment authorization forms: Have patients complete and sign registration forms or other HIPAA documents electronically before their first appointment or to consent to a procedure, reducing wait times and administrative burden.
  • Medical records and documentation: patients can fill out and sign medical history forms or verify current records are correct. Facilities can securely send and receive records electronically without the need for a fax machine or printed records.
  • Insurance cards and financial agreements: patients can upload photos of insurance cards, sign insurance claim forms electronically, or authorize financial agreements or payment plans.
  • HIPAA and confidentiality agreements: have patients sign HIPAA documents outlining privacy practices and other confidentiality agreements via email or SMS prior to their appointment, so they are ready for their appointment once they arrive.
“Patient communication is an important part of HIPAA compliance that can be often overlooked. It can be difficult for healthcare providers to find information on what they can and cannot say through different types of communication platforms.”
Liam Degnan
Director of Strategic Initiatives, Compliancy Group

Best Practices for HIPAA Compliant eSignatures

There are not set standards for how esignatures should meet HIPAA compliance. However, there are general guidelines that companies must follow to keep information secure when sending messages that contain PHI.

Just as with physical paperwork, failing to follow HIPAA requirements will result in a violation, so it’s essential that companies follow these best practices.

  • Legally binding esignature software: use a legally binding esignature platform, so the validity of a signature can’t be disputed later in the event of an issue.
  • Document integrity: signed documents should not be able to be edited after they have been delivered and filled out.
  • Consent to email or text: always get proper consent to email or text before sending any electronic messages to patients.
  • Dual-authenticated messages: Protect messages by requiring extra authentication before recipients can access their messages, so only the intended recipient has access.
  • Encryption: Messages should be encrypted in transit and at rest so that any PHI is protected.
  • Access controls: Use software with built-in administrative controls, so only authorized personnel can access templates and reports. To prevent mishandling, restrict PHI from any staff that do not need it for their role. Grant users the minimum level of access necessary to perform their job functions.
  • Regular training: Have staff complete regularly required HIPAA compliance training, so everyone knows their responsibilities.
  • Policies and procedures: Keep employee handbooks up-to-date and easily accessible so staff can reference company policies any time they need them.

PDCflow’s HIPAA Compliant eSignature Software

PDCflow’s platform offers HIPAA compliant communication workflows that can be delivered via email and SMS. Organizations can send messages or documents, get esignatures, or request photos, files, and payments while keeping PHI safe. Our secure digital signature software provides:

  • End-to-end encryption: messages are encrypted in transit and at rest, so data is kept secure.
  • Dual authentication: companies can require recipients to enter a PIN before accessing messages, so they remain private.
  • Uneditable final documents: HIPAA documents sent for review or esignature can’t be altered.
  • Audit trail: PDCflow’s digital audit trail includes geolocation information, date/time stamp, and delivery method of a message, for both you and recipients to keep for your records.
  • Access controls: Administrators can lock down workflows by template, location, department, and user. Protect PHI by controlling who can access information.
  • Integration: using open APIs, your company can integrate HIPAA compliant esignatures and secure messaging into a current system of record.

Do you want to protect patient PHI and speed up the office processes by taking HIPAA compliant electronic signatures? Request a demo with a PDCflow Sales Executive today.

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Hannah Huerta - PDCflow Marketing Specialist
Hannah Huerta, Marketing Specialist

Hannah Huerta is a Marketing Specialist at PDCflow. She creates content for the accounts receivable and payment industry.

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