As a healthcare provider, you’ll likely have access to protected health information (PHI), which means you have responsibilities when it comes to data protection.
One way to ensure you safeguard all private data is to make sure your email provider complies with The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Adhering to these security measures keeps data safe from unauthorized access.
Outlook is one of the top email providers of choice. But is it HIPAA compliant?
Is Outlook HIPAA Compliant?
Using Outlook as your email provider on its own does not automatically make you HIPAA compliant.
However, if you use Outlook as part of the Microsoft365 suite, it can be compliant when set up correctly.
It is your responsibility as the covered entity to ensure that a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) is signed before Office 365 is used to transmit or store PHI. This sets out clearly how your business associate - in this case Microsoft - can handle PHI.
While the BAA supports your HIPAA compliance, remember, you need to ensure you have an adequate compliance program in place - it’s not enough on its own. It is also your responsibility to check access controls and confirm that they are configured correctly, as well as training employees in the effective use of Office 365.
READ MORE: GDPR Vs. CCPA – How They Affect Your Business
How to make Outlook HIPAA compliant
Set up correctly, you can use Outlook safely, ensuring the safeguarding of sensitive data, and here’s how.
Before you do anything, the first step is to make sure that your computer is HIPAA compliant. If you’re unsure how to do this, there are tech professionals who offer this service.
Make sure you use a business-level firewall as well to ward off any security attacks.
Once your computer is in line with compliance, the connection between your computer and Microsoft365 has to be encrypted.
This will be turned on automatically for all first-time Microsoft 365 customers; however, if you’re a registered user, you’ll want to double-check with your IT provider.
When all this is in order and Microsoft365 is up and running, you need to make sure Microsoft365 is configured to be HIPAA compliant.
You can do this using CIS Microsoft Office Best Practices or seeking help from an IT professional.
A crucial part of your setup that shouldn’t be overlooked is two-step verification (2FA). This will be a protective barrier to sensitive information, with all employees required to enter the system using this 2FA - you can set it up by following these steps.
You also need to ensure the proper configuration of access controls, regular data backups, and the ability to wipe data on mobile devices.
Finally, you also want to make sure you have trained your staff so that they are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to HIPAA and their email.
When this is all completed and Office is appropriately configured, you can send PHI within your organization knowing that it is safe and compliant with HIPAA.
Don’t forget to make the most of Microsoft’s data loss prevention tools.
This helps employees avoid any mistakes like sending or sharing PHI that’s not adequately encrypted.
Following this helpful guide, you can make sure your system is running correctly to prevent future data breaches.
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