Breach Mail HIPAA
HIPAA and Email: Breach Notification Rule
Organizations that handle personal and medical data, most commonly including hospitals, medical practices, and clinical trial recruitment agencies, are governed in all their activities by HIPAA requirements. The Breach Notification Rule, part of the HIPAA set of guidelines, dictates the conditions under which an organization must notify individuals that their data has been or may have been exposed in breach of HIPAA rules.
While no organization wants to face a breach of information incident, it is essential to be prepared to send out a breach mail HIPAA notification before such an incident occurs, as the Breach Notification Rule sets strict limits on the timeline for notifying individuals about possible data exposure.
Definition of Breach
When is it necessary to notify individuals about an incident via breach mail? HIPAA and the Breach Notification Rule define a breach as the exposure or misuse of protected health information. A number of different circumstances could be the root cause of such an exposure or misuse, ranging from a single employee’s misunderstanding or ignorance of HIPAA rules to a deliberate hack of a database containing a hospital’s patient information.
It is important to note that the definition of a breach does not include the subsequent unlawful possession or misuse of protected health information after the exposure incident. That is, patients whose information was exposed must be notified by breach mail under HIPAA even if that information is never actually used by a “bad actor” in identity theft or other crimes. An organization must notify affected individuals, by mail in most cases, of the nature of the exposure and what information may have fallen into the wrong hands.
What is Considered a HIPAA Breach?
Another important point regarding a breach is that it involves the exposure of unsecured data–that is, protected health information that is not encrypted according to dictated and approved methods. This means that an unauthorized individual who comes into contact with the exposed information, whether deliberately or accidentally, would be able to view and retain the information without having to decrypt it first.
An organization that has been affected by a breach under these criteria must not only notify affected individuals, but must do so within a designated timeframe–within 60 days of discovering that the breach has occurred.
How To Ensure Your Breach Mail is Compliant
When sending breach mail, HIPAA guidelines are again in play to govern the receiving, use, storage, and transmission of protected health information. If your organization is hit by a breach and needs to send out notifications, it is essential to partner with a direct mail fulfillment partner such as Spectra that is HIPAA certified and has measures in place to protect data throughout the project.
With specialty direct mail offerings like pressure seal mailing, Spectra makes it possible for hospitals, clinical trial recruiters, and other organizations in the healthcare field to reach their mailing lists with breach notifications securely, efficiently, and affordably.
Breach Notifications: HIPAA and Email
While many of us have moved from physical mail to email for the bulk of our correspondence, the area of breach notifications is still focused on direct mail. Given the sensitive nature of breach mail, HIPAA rules, and the inconsistency of obtaining email addresses for all individuals on a given mailing list, most organizations find it most effective to send breach notifications via USPS rather than electronically.
While some patients may prefer to receive communications from healthcare providers via email, when it comes to protected health information, those healthcare providers must follow the same precautions when communicating online that apply to direct mail.