What is HIPAA Compliant Email?

HIPAA Compliant EmailProfessionals have been discussing the need for secure email for years, and especially since so many mental health professionals use email with clients and patients. A 2009 study by the American Psychological Association showed that 9.8% of psychologists polled reported using email for clinical purposes with clients (Jacobsen & Kohout).

In our newsletter, we’ve talked about Hushmail and other popular vendors who offer secured email platforms.

Outlined in the HIPAA Omnibus Rule, just published in January (see our HIPAA’s Final but Sweeping Changes to Privacy and Security Rules), there is increased liability for practitioners as well as vendors. As a result, there is a heightened attention on how we as professionals can hold email vendors more accountable for their claims of HIPAA compliance, or lack thereof.

Here is a list of important questions for us to ask vendors, generated by a group called Health BI:

  1. Where exactly will messages and documents reside?
  2. Explain the data center setup.
  3. Explain the data security infrastructure.
  4. What kind of encryption is used?
  5. What kind of auditing capabilities are provided?
  6. Explain system redundancy and availability strategy?
  7. Provide HIPAA compliancy documentations.
  8. Explain how customers are protected against mishandling of data by recipients of messages
  9. How much experience does the vendor have in developing solutions for healthcare?

Please feel free to comment in our blog below.


Jacobsen, T. & Kohout, J. (2010). 2008 APA Survey of Psychology Health Service Providers: Telepsychology, Medication and Collaboration. APA Center for Workforce Studies.


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Poonam Sharma, Ph.D.

Dr. Sharma is a licensed psychologist in private practice in San Antonio Texas. She earned her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from The University of Texas at Austin in 1994. In her clinical practice, she provides psychotherapy for adults and specialize in working with people dealing with health issues, such as infertility, traumatic injury, and stress. She is the author of Strong Women, Strong Love: The Missing Manual for the Modern Marriage (StrongWomenStrongLove.com). Her coaching work focuses on helping professional women wanting to learn how to build a great marriage, despite the challenges of modern society. She loves making the tools and knowledge of her field highly accessible to anyone who is hoping to better their life in any way.

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