Your healthcare business equips you with great power and, as the saying goes — with even greater responsibility. Patients value the care you provide and trust you with their lives and their private information. To ensure you justify that trust, there’s so much you have to do on a day-to-day basis, and you have to enlist assistance from different types of associates and entities. If in any of these interactions, you find yourself in a situation that involves revealing information about your patients, a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) alert has to be sent out immediately!
Your healthcare marketing activities are no different. You want to embrace the power of digital marketing and use the opportunity to communicate with your patients remotely, educate them, and promote your services. At the same time, just like with your other business relations, you have HIPAA compliance on your mind, for all the right reasons. What does the law say about this and why is it smart to have a HIPAA BAA (Business Associate Agreement) on file?
Handling PHI is a Delicate Matter
Your healthcare business stores and handles a vast amount of personal and sensitive information about your patients. You must ensure that protected health information (PHI), as the legislation defines it, is only used for legitimate healthcare purposes. The same applies to everyone who can access, use, or disclose PHI.
Healthcare providers may use PHI for treatment, payment, and healthcare operations. For anything else, including marketing purposes, you need the patient’s authorization. To secure privacy you need to be able to provide a legal backup and a trusted partner. This is the purpose of a HIPAA BAA, as it’s the only legal way to secure compliance and protect the privacy and security of patients’ data.
Is Your Healthcare Marketing Compliant?
Unfortunately, many healthcare practices are still unaware of all the legal provisions and implications of potential non-compliance. Remember that scandal involving Facebook tracking pixels found on the websites of numerous renowned hospitals?
One of the most common ways healthcare marketing violates HIPAA is through the unauthorized disclosure of PHI. For example, if you share patient information with a marketing company without the patient’s consent, this constitutes a violation of HIPAA. Even if a patient signs a form that allows their information to be used for marketing purposes, if the form is unclear or misleading it’s not HIPAA-compliant.
HIPAA violations can have rather serious consequences, both for health providers and their business associates. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) can impose significant fines for violations — ranging from $100 to $50,000 per violation, up to $1.5 million per year. Add to that the tarnished reputations and lawsuits the patients may file, and you end up in a situation you’d rather avoid, right?
How Can a HIPAA BAA Help You?
A Business Associate Agreement (BAA) is a legal contract between a healthcare provider (you) and an individual or organization that will receive access to, transmit, or store Protected Health Information (PHI) as part of the services it will provide to you. By signing it, you make HIPAA compliance a requirement for your associates.
Technology providers you work with must include relevant technical, administrative, and physical safeguards. We’re talking here about data encryption, access and audit controls, private hosting, data minimization options, analytics work, and other safety measures demanded by the act. Your business associates in the field of healthcare marketing have to meet the same criteria as others and make sure they follow the signed HIPAA BAA to a T.
Health and Human Services (HHS) can hold HIPAA business associates accountable for any data breaches or improper handling of data. Understanding this accountability is crucial because the actions of your business associates can significantly impact your organization’s liabilities.
Secure a HIPAA BAA with a Trustworthy Partner
To make sure your business associate isn’t going to cause you any headaches and cost you more than you anticipated, here are some cautionary actions to consider when assessing if signing a HIPAA BAA with them is a go:
- Assess HIPAA compliance efforts such as security policies, training records, and risk assessments of your potential business associate;
- Evaluate security measures and safeguards the third party has in place to protect PHI. This may include encryption, access controls, data backup, and disaster recovery plans;
- Carefully review the BAA provided by the third party, consult with legal counsel or HIPAA compliance expert, and customize if necessary;
- Ensure that the third party is responsive to your questions and concerns and that they are transparent about their processes and security measures;
- Establish the process for ongoing monitoring and auditing of the business associate’s HIPAA compliance throughout your partnership.
Selecting the right third party to sign a BAA with is critical to safeguarding patient data and ensuring HIPAA compliance. Taking the time to thoroughly vet potential business associates can help mitigate risks and protect your patient’s privacy and security.
Here at SocialClimb, we understand the importance of operating under the HIPAA BAA umbrella. We work hard to offer health providers a fully HIPAA-compliant marketing software and we’re confident we’ll satisfy the requirements of a demanding and complex healthcare business. A set of comprehensive features lets you track and analyze key metrics, tailor your marketing strategies, refine messaging, and choose the most effective channels for reaching your target audience.
Ticking all the boxes required for an effective HIPAA BAA with us will allow you to fully appreciate our excellence and expertise in the healthcare marketing field and take constant HIPAA compliance concerns off the table.
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