HIPAA-Compliant Email Providers: Ensuring Secure Communication for Healthcare

HIPAA-Compliant Email Providers

HIPAA-Compliant Communication: Secure Messaging in Healthcare

In healthcare, protecting patient information is a top priority, especially regarding electronic communications. HIPAA-compliant email service providers are critical in ensuring the privacy and security of sensitive data transmitted via email.

We recently published an in-depth article on HIPAA’s main principles regarding the use of email, and today we will dive into the details of which electronic communication tools are legal to use in the healthcare sector to contact patients.

What Are HIPAA-Compliant Email Providers?

As mentioned before, HIPAA is a federal law in the United States designed to protect sensitive patient health information. Essentially, HIPAA-compliant email providers are those that offer secure methods for transmitting electronic protected health information (ePHI) while adhering to the strict requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

These providers implement robust encryption protocols to protect sensitive patient data during transmission and storage, ensuring strict compliance with HIPAA privacy and security regulations. In addition, they often offer features such as access control, audit logs, and data backup to further strengthen security measures. By using the services of HIPAA-compliant email providers, healthcare organizations maintain complete confidentiality, integrity, and availability of patient information while meeting regulatory obligations.

What Emails Need to Be HIPAA-Compliant?

It’s no secret that when dealing with a multitude of emails daily, it is difficult to avoid mistakes. To avoid violations, it is safest to use automatic encryption. Here are the three main classes of typical everyday emails that must be HIPAA-compliant and properly encrypted:

Provider to Patient: These letters include answering patient/customer questions, reminders about appointments, test results notifications, and billing emails.

Provider to Provider: Communication between providers involves transmitting PHI for referrals, lab test results, case discussions, prescriptions, patient discharge information, etc. HIPAA-compliant email simplifies their communication as an improved alternative to fax or portals.

Provider to Insurance Carrier: Healthcare providers frequently exchange emails containing PHI for processes like claim submission and claim status inquiries. These emails contain sensitive patient information and must be sent securely to ensure HIPAA compliance.

Finding the Right HIPAA-Compliant Email Service

To stay HIPAA compliant when using email, ensure you’re using secure email solutions that encrypt messages and attachments both in transit and at rest. Appropriate email sending is typically offered through secure portals or SMTP relay services, though they can be costly. Regardless of the provider you choose, they will sign a business associate agreement (BAA) with you, as required by law.

The most well-known providers of secure email for healthcare are Microsoft and Google. Using Outlook or Gmail in a HIPAA-compliant manner, however, is not possible unless an organization subscribes to a compliant Microsoft Office 365 account or Google Workspace enterprise account. Both providers provide capabilities to support compliance for email, offering encryption, security, data loss prevention, and backups, but their subscription plans also include several services that organizations pay for but may never use.

Challenges can also arise with the types of encryption that healthcare email service providers use to protect the privacy of PII during transit. For example, Microsoft recently discontinued support for TLS 1.0 and 1.1, meaning that emails with these encryption protocols sent to Outlook accounts will be either rejected by the incoming server or converted to a non-TLS (unencrypted) format for delivery, based on how the sender and receiver servers are configured.

Organizations that want to use S/MIME encryption as an alternative (which encrypts the email content rather than the connection between the sender and recipient) may also face challenges. These problems include but aren’t limited to the lack of consistent S/MIME support among ESPs, the administrative overhead of managing S/MIME certificates, and the unreadability of message content by antivirus scanners, email archiving software, and DLP tools.

We’ve collected the list of the most popular HIPAA-compliant email providers based on a combination of factors such as user reviews, industry reputation, features, and pricing.

Top 10 HIPAA-Compliant Email Providers

Here are the top 10 HIPAA-compliant email providers, who offer their services on a paid basis and have a large pool of good user reviews:

1. Paubox.

Paubox is considered a top service for ensuring HIPAA compliance and offers email encryption solutions to prevent the disclosure of Protected Health Information during email transit. Based in California, Paubox provides various products created for different needs, including email filtering for inbound messages, HIPAA-compliant email archiving, an email marketing solution, and an email API for automating HIPAA-compliant communication at scale.

2. LuxSci.

LuxSci offers highly flexible email security solutions, ideal for organizations navigating HIPAA requirements. With features like Dynamic TLS and Exclusive TLS, it provides secure communication and prioritizes usability. Users can also upgrade encryption levels on-demand and customize settings for specific recipients or domains.

3. Send It Secure by Protected Trust.

The Send It Secure service from Protected Trust offers HIPAA and GLBA-compliant secure email solutions. It has a reputation for providing strong encryption solutions and prioritizes user trust and data protection. To improve user experience, they rebranded their product from Protected Trust Email Encryption to Send It Secure, further improving the level of reliability and security for customers.

4. NeoCertified.

NeoCertified provides email solutions customized to your compliance needs in secure communication for HIPAA. Whether you need a secure website communication channel, a HIPAA-compliant email service, or a simple encrypted email portal, NeoCertified has you covered. The company focuses on healthcare organizations and ensures the privacy and protection of sensitive healthcare data, including ePHI, healthcare plans, electronic prescriptions, and more. NeoCertified has numerous positive reviews and good ratings from users and makes HIPAA compliance easy and efficient.

5. Virtru.

Virtru enables HIPAA-compliant data sharing and receiving. It offers end-to-end encryption for data protection, authentication options, audit logs, access revocation, and customizable encryption rules. With Virtru, you can securely send emails and attachments from Gmail, Outlook, and mobile devices, and extend encryption to platforms like Google Drive and Salesforce.

6. Zoho Mail.

Zoho Mail offers first-class protection for your emails. With strong privacy practices, email encryption, and compliance measures, your data stays safe and secure. Enjoy secure communications with additional layers of security, data-at-rest and transmission encryption, and support for digital signatures.

In addition, you can also use Zoho CRM, which offers customizable access controls, secure data transfer, compliance monitoring, and data encryption features to assist in HIPAA compliance for managing customer relationships and safeguarding sensitive ePHI data.

7. Hushmail for Healthcare.

Hushmail for Healthcare offers encrypted email communication for therapists, psychologists, optometrists, dentists and other healthcare professionals. With pre-configured HIPAA compliance, including a signed Business Associate Agreement and built-in email archiving, it ensures secure client and patient communication with ease.

8. ProtonMail.

Proton makes HIPAA compliance easy with built-in encryption. Internal messages are end-to-end encrypted, and sending secure health information externally is easy with message and attachment encryption. You can securely access Proton Mail from anywhere with web and mobile apps, or easily integrate with existing email clients like Outlook and Apple Mail for automatic PGP encryption. This service helps you stay organized effortlessly with customizable filters and organization tools to manage documents and patient records.

9. Aspida Mail.

Aspida Mail offers a simple solution for HIPAA-compliant encrypted email, designed to seamlessly integrate with your existing setup. With AES-256 encryption, real-time spam and malware protection, and compatibility with popular mail clients like Outlook and Apple Mail, Aspida Mail ensures secure communication without disruption. Plus, with data loss prevention features including email backup and retention for up to 6 years with no size limit, you can trust that your sensitive information is safe. Aspida Mail also provides a Business Associate Agreement and Email Policy for added peace of mind.

10. MailHippo.

MailHippo is also considered a good HIPAA-compliant email encryption solution that is both secure and affordable. Focusing exclusively on providing secure email and HIPAA-compliant forms, MailHippo ensures that your sensitive data stays safe without breaking the bank.

HIPAA Compliant Email Sending: What Else You Need to Know

Due to potential problems with Microsoft, Google, and other available secure email providers for healthcare, other providers are now offering solutions that overcome these potential difficulties. While some HIPAA-compliant email providers may require organizations to migrate some or all of their email accounts to ensure HIPAA compliance, others offer plug-ins to encrypt data and/or connections with proprietary protocols.

Out of all the HIPAA-compliant plugins, some that require no user intervention to encrypt or read emails are the best. This eliminates users from having to remember to click a button when they send or reply to an email, and also allows them to read emails without clicking a link to a portal, which usually leads to users unfamiliar with the security of the service ignoring the email for fear of clicking an unrecognized link.

When searching online for HIPAA-compliant email providers, it’s important to be careful. Some vendors may prioritize promoting their software over compliance. To ensure suitability, organizations should take advantage of free trials and evaluate vendors’ HIPAA experience before committing.

Summing Up

HIPAA-compliant email providers offer secure solutions for healthcare professionals to transmit confidential patient information while complying with the law. These providers ensure that emails are encrypted, access is restricted, and security measures are in place to protect ePHI during transit and storage. In this article, we’ve provided you with a comprehensive list of top HIPAA-compliant email providers that many users believe are safe to choose. Only by selecting a proper email provider compliant with HIPAA healthcare organizations can be confident in sharing sensitive data without the risk of breaches and violations.

Please be informed that this blog post was created and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. We suggest that you contact a qualified expert for professional assistance with your questions.

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Khrystyna Sliusar

Content Lead at GlockApps