How nurses and doctors can use HIPAA email disclaimers

HIPAA email disclaimer
Nurses blog

Email is a popular way for healthcare providers to interact with patients. However, this convenient method of communication is not inherently secure. 

Providing a HIPAA email disclaimer helps reduce providers’ liability in the event of a data breach. It also adds an extra layer of protection for patients. 

Keep reading to learn how nurses, doctors and other medical professionals can use HIPAA email disclaimers. Plus, find out how you can strengthen protection even further with a HIPAA compliant email provider. 

What is a HIPAA email disclaimer?

A HIPAA email disclaimer is a block of text included at the bottom of an email that notes when a message might contain protected health information (PHI) and should be approached with caution. Essentially, using these disclaimers places a certain level of responsibility on the recipient to respond at their own risk.

In addition, HIPAA email disclaimers often include instructions for situations where a message is received by mistake. Recipients are typically directed to forward the email to the correct individual or dispose of it. It is also common to outline the consequences for improperly using this personal information. 

Why are HIPAA email disclaimers important for nurses and doctors? 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the HIPAA Security Rule does not prohibit sending electronic PHI (ePHI) by email. However, covered entities “must implement technical policies and procedures that allow only authorized persons to access electronic protected health information.” This includes securing ePHI both at rest and in transit. 

Most email systems are not encrypted by default. There are also many popular email providers that do support email encryption, but it’s often not good enough to meet HIPAA standards. For example, only 87% of sent emails are encrypted in Gmail. HIPAA requires 100% email encryption. That 13% is still an opening for hackers to access emails in transit.

Therefore, as a medical professional, you must provide a HIPAA email disclaimer to warn patients that a message is not 100% secure.  

How to use a HIPAA email disclaimer

You can set up a company-wide HIPAA email disclaimer through various email providers. Depending on the size of the practice, an IT team may manage this process. 

When implementing a disclaimer, it is smart to limit your team’s ability to alter the default text. Otherwise, employees might forget to add the disclaimer or leave out important information.

Another best practice is to ensure that you are using concise wording, as unclear instructions can end up putting your company at risk of non-compliance. For instance, asking unintended recipients to reply to an email may lead to the further recirculation of PHI.  

Boost protection with Paubox 

It is important to note that a HIPAA email disclaimer is simply designed to keep patients informed—it does not automatically make your organization HIPAA compliant.

The best way for nurses and doctors to securely email PHI is by using a third-party email security provider that protects the emails you send. That’s where Paubox Email Suite’s HIPAA compliant email service comes in. 

Paubox Email Suite enables HIPAA compliant email by default and automatically encrypts every outbound message. This means you don’t have to spend time deciding which emails to encrypt, and your patients are able to receive your messages right in their inbox—no additional passwords or portals necessary. 

In addition to enabling healthcare email encryption for compliance with HIPAA email rules, Paubox Email Suite’s Plus and Premium plan levels include robust inbound email security tools that block malicious cyberattacks from reaching the inbox in the first place. 

Our patent-pending Zero Trust Email feature uses email AI to confirm that an email is legitimate. Additionally, our patented ExecProtect feature quickly intercepts display name spoofing attempts.

About the author

Sara Uzer

Read more by Sara Uzer

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