What you need to know about HIPAA and online forms

As patients begin taking a more-active role in their care, it’s becoming more important than ever for healthcare providers to embrace the digital age and modernize their tools and processes. 

Today’s patients are looking for consumer-friendly doctors’ offices that make it easy to be a patient. Digitizing your intake forms is a great example of modernizing care. With online forms, patients can safely fill in their details online before an appointment, minimizing the time they have to spend in the waiting room. 

While patients want these kinds of conveniences, on the other hand, they want to make sure their information is secure. The threat of their personal information — especially their medical records — being exposed in a data breach is real. And a HIPAA regulation violation can have significant legal consequences.

Here’s what practices need to know about HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, as well as HIPAA-compliant online forms and how to properly leverage technology to build a positive patient experience.

The evolution of HIPAA

Before we dive into how to use online forms and other patient-engagement tools securely, it’s important to look at HIPAA. In 1996, it was a groundbreaking new law that established the first nationally held standard for PHI in the U.S. (as well as the similar PIPEDA — the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act in Canada).

As technology has improved, many major changes have been made to HIPAA. For example, in 2013, the Breach Notification Rule was introduced, requiring that all patient data breaches affecting more than 500 individuals be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.

As technology continues to get better and help patients and their doctors connect virtually, HIPAA will inevitably change as well. That’s why it’s important to work with healthcare software providers that stay up to date with changing regulations.

HIPAA-compliant online forms

Electronic intake forms offer patients a convenient way to complete their intake paperwork at home, but you have to be careful about how you transfer that information.

Some practices use email to send and receive online forms, but in general, email is not secure. Inboxes can be compromised, your emails can even be intercepted, or your staff could accidentally send an email containing protected health information (PHI) to the wrong person or organization. intakeQ uses HIPAA-compliant online forms to collect your patient’s information and transfer it securely, helping ensure that PHI is always safe and secure.

HIPAA-compliant text messaging

Texting is another common way for practices to communicate with their patients. Texts are used for things such as appointment reminders, rescheduling missed appointments, receiving educational material, or getting updates from the doctor. It’s an extremely convenient communication tool for patients, especially in an increasingly busy world, and it’s increasingly becoming the preferred way to communicate for most people. 

Like email, though, text messages can present security issues. 

Since practices can’t verify their patients’ identity when sending a text update, these messages shouldn’t include sensitive information that falls under HIPAA protections. 

intakeQ’s secure messaging portal takes all the conveniences of text messaging and puts them into a safe HIPAA-compliant portal that helps enable you to safely send and receive messages, documents, and images with your clients. You can also use intakeQ’s secure environment to send and receive intake forms and share treatment notes.

With intakeQ, you can also send and receive online consent forms, letting your patients authorize the disclosure of their medical or personal information to a specific party. This is helpful for all kinds of medical information, be it comprehensive, limited to a specific condition, or framed within a certain time period. With intakeQ, patients don’t have to stop by your office to fill out a consent form or find a fax machine. It’s as simple as sending a text.

Getting started with intakeQ

At intakeQ, we believe that the role of intake forms is underplayed. We see them as the first engagement between you and your patient. Our goal is to make the intake process as smooth as possible for both parties. 

intakeQ offers booking forms that have flexible question formats, are mobile-friendly, and include e-signature support. Our tools allow you to build client profiles with progress notes that streamline the file management process.

Secure automated appointment reminders via text, voice or email can be scheduled ahead of time to reduce the number of no-shows while remaining in line with HIPAA regulations. 

HIPAA compliance is imperative for your practice. Let intakeQ help you ensure that the requirements are being met, with minimal stress to you and your practice. Get started today with our free 14-day trial of intakeQ’s online forms capabilities and our integrated practiceQ practice-management solution. No credit card required!

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