Online appointment scheduling tools are a convenient way for patients to book appointments. However, when using a software platform that has access to protected health information, it is important to consider its HIPAA compliance. To provide guidance on choosing the right online appointment scheduling tool, HIPAA-compliant appointment scheduling is discussed.
HIPAA Compliant Appointment Scheduling: Security Features
HIPAA compliant appointment scheduling tools must have security features to secure sensitive data. These safeguards must ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of protected health information (PHI). Security features to look for when choosing an appointment scheduling tool include:
- User Authentication. This ensures that users are who they appear to be through the use of unique login credentials for data access.
- Access Controls. Through the use of unique login credentials, employees should only be granted access to the data that they need to perform their job functions, known as the HIPAA minimum necessary standard.
- Masking sensitive data to prevent unauthorized access to PHI, as only users possessing a decryption key can access data.
HIPAA Compliant Appointment Scheduling: Business Associate Agreements
Under HIPAA, software providers are considered business associates. As such, healthcare providers are required to sign a business associate agreement (BAA) with their appointment scheduling provider before it can be used to schedule patient appointments. A BAA dictates the safeguards that the appointment scheduling provider is required to have in place securing PHI and also requires them to be responsible for maintaining their HIPAA compliance.
HIPAA Compliant Appointment Scheduling: Tools to Consider
There are several HIPAA compliant appointment scheduling tools available for mental health professionals, some of which include:
- Yellow Schedule focuses solely on appointment scheduling, allowing providers to display available appointment times directly on their website. Yellow Schedule’s features include the ability for patients to choose between multiple practitioners, recurring appointments, custom scheduling, calendar sync, appointment confirmations, email and text appointment reminders, and instant messaging. Yellow Schedule Offers a free scheduling option, however, the free version is not HIPAA compliant.
- BirchPress features include custom appointments, mobile device capabilities, appointment scheduling for multi-site practices, booking directly from the practitioner’s website, and tracking payment history.
- Contact Forms. Offers the most cost-effective option, however, lacks the features available through other platforms. Contact Forms allows patients to fill out a form with their contact information, and provide their availability. The provider then needs to contact the patient to set up an appointment.
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