A group of doctors sit at a table, coming up with HIPAA compliant medical tech solutions.

HIPAA Compliance in the Digital Age

A group of doctors sit at a table, discussing HIPAA compliance in medical tech solutions.

With the rise of healthcare technology, it’s important for your practice to know the healthcare technology that follows HIPAA compliance.

Medical marketing is increasingly entrenched in new technology. Most healthcare industry professionals are making use of social media, ‘software as a service’ applications (SaaS), or various hosting solutions to run their practices. To stay updated on current medical technology practices, it’s important to understand how software and social media are related to HIPAA’s rules and regulations.

Social media effectively brings new patient acquisition methods to the table and encourages patient engagement in their own healthcare. Implementing an effective medical marketing strategy means understanding how to take advantage of these channels while securing HIPAA compliance.

What Is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was instituted in 1996 to accommodate the growing use of technology in healthcare.  However, due to considerable advances in healthcare technology, HIPAA has been unable to cover all current medical tech practices.

For one, it doesn’t mention specifications related to hardware and software security, and any existing regulations would, therefore, be out of date.  Since 1996, there have obviously been significant advances made in healthcare software and hardware technology.  All of this doesn’t even begin to consider cloud hosting, SaaS software, or social media practices.

The role of HIPAA in current medical tech practices is to ensure that medical providers are following the rules of basic compliance and best practices.  Since there is no governing body that certifies software, hosting services, or healthcare companies for HIPAA compliance, there is no such thing as being “HIPAA-certified.” However, medical providers can be audited by various groups that enforce HIPAA regulations.

Primary Concerns with HIPAA Compliance in Healthcare Tech

One of the issues concerning HIPAA compliance in healthcare tech is the distribution of Protected Health Information (PHI). Doctors have to be vigilant regarding state laws and HIPAA when handling PHI via medical software or social media.  Accidental disclosure of sensitive patient information, either written or through photos and videos, will be penalized with fines and other repercussions.

To prevent issues of this kind, you must educate your social media managers and other employees within your practice about HIPAA compliance.  Your organization should also have all patient-related e-communications readily available for compliance checks or audits.

Through healthcare websites, apps, and social media channels, doctor-patient interaction has extended beyond the confines of the physician’s office.  Providing medical advice through any of these means should be approached with extreme caution, and only when necessary.

The Internet allows patients from different states to access the services of healthcare providers everywhere, so doctors could also run into state licensing laws violations when providing patients with online medical advice.

A doctor sits at his desk surrounded technology (laptop, keyboard, smartphone, tablet). HIPAA compliance can be tricky but it is part of an effective medical marketing strategy.

HIPAA compliance in the digital age can be confusing, but researching medical tech that follows HIPAA regulations is part of an effective medical marketing strategy.

Cloud Services and SaaS

Software as a service (SaaS) applications are cloud computing solutions that allow medical providers to shift data management responsibilities to trained third-party cyber security professionals.  By using these services, medical providers no longer need to purchase or maintain any hardware or software, or even hire any tech security staff to manage their practices’ data.  SaaS applications are part of what we call the Cloud.

However, physicians and other healthcare professions must keep in mind that utilizing appropriate software is only part of what being HIPAA compliant means in the digital age.  Even if the software could be HIPAA certified, HIPAA compliance is still not guaranteed.  The real concerns lie in the hosting, specifications for individual computers, user authentication and inadvertent disclosure of patient information.

There is nothing in the HIPAA document itself that would ban cloud servers, SaaS applications, and similar tools, but there are guidelines that regulate aspects related to encryption, authentication, etc.

Social Media

Social media is now an instrumental part of running a patient-oriented, responsive medical practice.  Studies have shown that increased patient involvement in their own healthcare via social media and app channels improves patient outcomes.

Social media and related medical tech outlets allow doctors to receive feedback and updates regarding patient conditions outside of office visits.  It also facilitates better doctor-patient communication. When doctors can interact with current and potential patients on social media, they have the chance to connect with them and influence their daily healthcare decision-making.

Blogging is also an effective marketing method for physicians who want to acquire new patients, and for patients who are looking for healthcare pointers or even a new doctor. Social media creates an environment where all patients can be actively engaged in their healthcare.  Millennials are not the only ones who benefit from the integration of social media – studies show that patients aged 55-56 are the fastest growing demographic participating in social media practices.

Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are also platforms where medical providers can connect with healthcare industry peers, engage in productive conversations, and build referral networks

Tech-Savvy Medical Marketing With MedINFOtech

At MedINFOtech, we cater to all of your medical marketing inquiries and needs. Our goal is to keep your practice current in a world full of changing technologies. Hopefully, these tips have given you a better idea of how to stay HIPAA compliant in the digital age.