Quick Guide to Meet HIPAA Fax Requirements

(Credit: Image by akitada31 from Pixabay ) Quick Guide to Meet HIPAA Fax Requirements
November 2
8:07 PM 2021

Security and privacy are at the forefront of people's minds these days, and with good reason. Last year alone, there were more than one billion online data breaches in the United States resulting in over 155 million sensitive records falling into the wrong hands. Those breaches pave the way for theft, identity fraud, and a range of other problems for victims. Preventing issues like these can be difficult with so much information being transferred via the internet. Though it may not be easy to use them, numerous measures are in place to protect people and businesses. 

Changing the Way Information Is Exchanged

Medical records have been prime targets for hackers and other wrongdoers in the past. They still are, but the situation has taken a turn. Not very long ago, the first line of defense was to keep medical records and communications in safe places and have them shredded when they were no longer needed. Today, though, hard-copy medical records are becoming a thing of the past. They're being replaced with their digital counterparts. Sending potentially vulnerable information via traditional fax has given way to using a secure online fax to exchange information. It's typically a safer option, but following proper protocols to ensure it stays that way is essential.

Remaining in Compliance with Current Regulations

Patients and members of the medical field alike are familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. This law sets forth a specific range of standards to follow when sending patients' sensitive information via fax or another method. It has been put into place to ensure patients' information isn't disclosed without their express consent. This can protect them in numerous ways, including making sure their personal data doesn't fall into the wrong hands and guaranteeing private matters aren't inadvertently made public. 

Remaining in compliance with HIPAA regulations entails three key steps. One applies to the way medical records are stored and handled. It dictates that patients' information must be stored in encrypted files rather than in easily readable formats. That ensures hackers can't make heads or tails of the information even if they're able to get their hands on it. That's only one portion of the process, though.

From there, another set of regulations pertains to sending medical information via fax. When using traditional fax machines, encryption must first be stripped away so the information can be printed. As those physical faxes are being sent, they can be vulnerable to hackers. The physical copy of the information is also an issue to consider. It must be disposed of according to established protocols. With online faxing, files don't have to have their encryption stripped away before being sent, so they're not vulnerable to exposure.

The final phase of HIPAA compliance regulations applies to the transmission of the fax. Again, the information being sent must remain secure throughout the transmission process. Once physical faxes reach their destinations, the hard-copy records can potentially be stolen at that end of the communication chain if they're not disposed of promptly and properly. That's not the case with digital faxes as long as the recipient keep the files in encrypted form. 

Using the Best Alternative

Traditional faxes and other means of transmission are acceptable as long as the sender and recipient remain in compliance with HIPAA regulations. Still, complying with those rules isn't a simple matter with conventional faxing. Online faxing is the simpler, and often more suitable, alternative at this point because it goes a long way toward upholding the regulations throughout the process.

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