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HIPAA Compliant Printing and Mailing Services

  • HIPAA laws require that all transmissions occur without breach of people’s data privacy.
  • It is done to safeguard people’s interests and protect their personal records. 
  • Healthcare and Insurance care providers can only deal with direct mail vendors that are HIPAA compliant.
  • Other companies that deal with PHI (Public Health Information) in some way or the other need to take care of HIPAA compliances relevant to them.
  • PostGrid’s operation and print and mail print partners are completely compliant with HIPAA framework and standards ensuring sensitive information remains confidential and data processing is handled in a safe and secure manner 

Public Health Information

  • When it comes to complying with the HIPAA laws, there is no way that you can miss them out. Even a single violation can lead to the imposition of heavy penalties and several lawsuits. 
  • To avoid any hassles and violations, you need to be clear about the terms laid out under PHI. Always be fully informed about the terms and keep it as a decisional factor in all your operations. 
  • PHI refers to any information about individuals through which their identity and medical records can be revealed. 
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Details That Count as PHI

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Health conditions and plans
  • Phone number
  • Medical records
  • IP address
  • Bank account number or any financial information
  • Social security number
  • Vehicle information
  • Links to any website or page
  • Certificate numbers
  • Biometric identifiers
  • Facial images

What is HIPAA?

  • The “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act” was enacted in 1996 by the 104th United States Congress for two prime reasons: to regulate the use of PHI and protect it from misuse and fraud, and to make sure all workers get health insurance benefits while shuffling between jobs.
  • HIPAA guidelines for mailing services are a must follow when sending direct mail. It applies to pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, insurance industries, and more. HIPAA compliant mailing ensures that everything you send contains all the information in a more secure manner.
  • Health information related to medical equipment, finances, and other private information is not displayed on HIPAA compliant mailings. HIPAA protection extends to a wide range of categories, some of which may seem obvious, but many of them are not.
  • Title 2 of the HIPAA law explicitly mentions the “privacy rule,” which was brought into effect in 2003. This rule states the use and maintenance of PHI.
  • In simple terms, healthcare providers and related companies in the industry cannot sell their patients’ data and should keep it confidential.
  • There are some exceptions, like: healthcare providers can use this information to promote their products and services to their patients.
  • Broadly, HIPAA is applicable to companies in any field that deals with the collection and storage of PHI.
  • Businesses are required to comply with HIPAA regulations in the US to avoid legal hassles that can also tarnish a company’s reputation forever.

Read more about: Top 10 Best HIPAA Compliant CRM Software for Healthcare

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HIPAA Mailing Services: The Whats & Whys

HIPAA mailing services are critical to maintaining overall compliance while sending the mail items. It is essential for the business responsible to serve their clients while protecting themselves against any type of legal ramifications.

Furthermore, a HIPAA mailing service is an effective way to help a business differentiate its services from others in the marketplace and understand the value of compliance. Some of the HIPAA mailing services includes:

  • Explanation of Benefits
  • Explanation of Coverage
  • Breach of security notifications
  • Scholarly mailers highlighting medical procedures
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Covered Entities under HIPAA

  • HIPAA states certain classes of professionals as ‘covered entities” to simplify the law. These covered entities include health insurance companies, healthcare providers, healthcare clearinghouses, and employer health plans.
  • Cloud hosting firms, SMS, faxing, and emailing service providers are not excluded under any provisions. They have to follow all the HIPAA regulations.
  • Companies storing PHI in electronic forms are also not excluded. Such organizations are termed as “business associates” who take information from the covered entities to provide their services.
  • All business associates should sign a “business associate agreement” to assist their clients in following the HIPAA rules.

Entities That are Excluded

  • The provisions of this act have excluded postal services and carrier providers like the USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
  • It is because of the fact that – these mail providers merely transport the PHI-related documents from one place to another.
  • They are not involved in holding or storing this data for a long period.
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HIPAA Guidelines for Direct Mail Service Providers

  • HIPAA sets various privacy regulations for individuals’ personal information and medical data. 
  • It primarily affects companies in the healthcare sector, but all other industries and businesses making use of PHI in any way come under the provisions of HIPAA.
  • The direct mail industry uses patients’ medical information while sending HIPAA compliant direct mail on behalf of healthcare providers. 
  • They deal with the medical documents of thousands of patients, making them business associates under the law.
  • Though the information is used only for mailing purposes, it is still stored and maintained by the direct mail service providers.
  • Therefore, all businesses in the direct mail industry should compulsorily follow HIPAA laws and provisions.
  • They must go through certain audits and get themselves HIPAA certified.

HIPAA and PostGrid

  • HIPAA is not all about getting a single audit done and receiving a certification. It is an ongoing process that needs to be followed throughout the life of a business. 
  • If you are a company, whether in the healthcare industry or not, and are looking to send medical documents or direct mail – PostGrid can help you print and mail them under HIPAA regulations effortlessly. 
  • You need not deal with the stress of sending your documents and direct mail while also following the necessary laws. PostGrid solves these problems for you easily. 
  • You can be assured that our data handling experts always follow strict instructions and undergo a lot of procedures that are meant to keep your data private in all forms. 
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More Details on PostGrid’s HIPAA Compliance

  • We continuously strive to maintain all the data security procedures that help us deal with PHI obtained safely and legally from various organizations. 
  • PostGrid has enforced the highest data protection standards and confidentiality.
  • It is applicable to all organizations’ data, irrespective of whether they fall under the category of covered entities or not.
  • The rigorous processes and training we have gone through can ensure that your data is safe with us. You can avail of our print and mail services with complete peace of mind.

Importance of HIPAA compliant framework and practices

  • Insecure data handling infrastructure can lead to a number of mishaps – making it mandatory to get yourself a HIPAA compliant services provider. 
  • Any data breach or theft can lead to potential lawsuits and fines. Your vendor should also have the necessary resources and technology to be able to protect the PHI they are dealing with. 
  • Only the companies that clear the audits and get the clearances can deal with PHI. 
  • To get HIPAA compliance, print and mail companies should undergo certain training in specific areas that are critical to data security. 
  • Every party involved should follow the necessary steps and instructions.
  • PostGrids’ entire data processing and print and mail partnership are compliant with HIPAA standards ensuring all frameworks and standards are adhered to.
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All companies dealing with PHI should specifically focus on:

  • Backup management
  • Physical safety
  • System integrity
  • Access permission levels
  • Audit control
  • Transmission security
  • Data maintenance
  • Data handling methods

PostGrid's Security Measures

  • Technically, we accept details or private patient statement information only through SSL or TLS, ensuring that everything is encrypted. 
  • For better security, all the files are deleted automatically after use. PostGrid does not retain any documents or information, as they are automatically deleted from the servers once the purpose is served. 
  • Usernames and passwords are also protected. All operators have to undergo security checks to verify their identities – before accessing any of your data. 
  • Physically, PostGrid is hosted on Amazon web servers to ensure maximum security, and only approved users can access them.
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HIPAA Compliant Print and Mail Solutions for the Healthcare Industry

  • Reduce the time and effort required to print and mail patients’ medical reports and healthcare documents. 
  • Use PostGrid to cut down costs, accelerate marketing, and keep the revenue cycle running. 
  • Whether you are a small dental clinic or a big healthcare institution, PostGrid’s HIPAA-compliant solution can help you draft, organize, print, and mail your documents efficiently and without any data breach worries. 
  • HIPAA compliant processing and partnership
  • You can improve your patient experience and process patient billing securely with us.

Some examples of healthcare documents that can be printed and mailed with PostGrid are:

  • Test reports
  • Medical Invoices or Bills
  • Medical Receipts
  • EOB (Explanation of Benefits)
  • EOC (Explanation of Coverage)
  • Patient notices and letters
  • Medical statements
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Business Associate Agreement

  • PostGrid can enter into a business associate agreement if required by you. 
  • An official format is followed as per the sample posted on the website of the US Department of Health & Human Services. 
  • With PostGrid, you can be sure that your data is safe, private, and confidential – as we have invested in our data privacy processes heavily. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is mailing physical or mental healthcare records permissible?

Yes. You may legally mail healthcare documents to patients and third parties like insurance agencies. It is not a HIPAA violation, and the law allows you to ship these mailers as long as you do it securely and privately. 

Use Certified Mail or Priority Mail options to get a signature from the recipient on delivery. It can serve as proof of safe mailing and delivery if the patient denies receipt. Additionally, these shipping options ensure only the intended patients or their authorized agents get their documents. 

You should also follow the basic safety measures, like

  • Use thick and non-transparent envelopes for transit. They ensure carriers or other people who handle mail cannot view the contents. Sturdy envelopes also guarantee that your documents do not come out of the covers or become visible if there is a tear during the shipping journey. 
  • Avoid using windowed envelopes unless it shows the mailing address only. 
  • Verify mailing lists before shipping crucial documents to them. 
  • Transmit PHI only through reputable courier companies like USPS, FedEx, DHL, and UPS. HIPAA restricts providers from using other carriers to send healthcare documents. 

Is First-Class Mail and USPS Marketing Mail HIPAA compliant?

No. USPS Marketing Mail is not HIPAA compliant because organizations usually send these items in bulk to get postal discounts. This mailing service is for shipping promotional items that do not contain PHI.

It is because USPS Marketing Mail does not have fixed delivery estimates. The postal services might take weeks to deliver your items to their destinations. During the transit, the carrier might lose the mailers or misplace them, resulting in a potential data breach. Providers might have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in such cases, making it a legal requirement to avoid USPS Marketing Mail for HIPAA mailings. 

If your mailers have PHI content, you must at least use First-Class Mail as a minimum requirement. It allows healthcare providers to send their items within two to five business days securely and effectively! 

The First-Class Mail service does not offer USPS tracking or delivery confirmation. But you can make up for it using the Certified mailing option. 

Certified and Registered Mail helps you add these features to your mailings and make them more secure. Alternatively, you can choose Priority Mail to improve your items’ safety and ensure they reach the recipients quickly.

What are the four primary HIPAA requirements?

Four HIPAA compliances affect patients directly, and they are 

  • Health data security– Healthcare providers must protect their patients’ data safety by drafting procedures to keep it away from hackers and fraud. Only allowing authorized staff to compile and manage patient data is essential, primarily as identity thefts and breaches increase daily. Moreover, they should only use HIPAA-compliant software programs and vendors to maintain a secure network. 
  • Healthcare data breach notifications– Providers are accountable for informing the concerned authorities if there is a data breach, putting patient data at risk. The infringement’s size or impact does not matter in this case. Organizations must immediately take action and send a notification to prevent further complications. They might need to pay a fine, but hiding these situations can get them into more trouble and legal action. 
  • Data privacy– Patients might be willing to share sensitive information with their healthcare providers. But that does not empower the hospital or clinic to share the data with external parties that are not HIPAA-compliant or can misuse it. Data privacy is another primary requirement under HIPAA that organizations cannot afford to forego.  
  • Patient rights over their healthcare data– Patients can access their details in a management system whenever they want. The Privacy Rule gives individuals the legal right to view and get copies of their medical and other records upon request. All health plans, healthcare providers, and other covered entities must help patients with it and provide them with the necessary information within a specified time.

What is SOC-2 certification in HIPAA compliance?

SOC (Service Organization Control) 2 is an auditing process to measure how providers manage their patient data according to HIPAA rules. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) developed this certification to evaluate healthcare providers and related entities based on

  • Data availability.
  • Security. 
  • Confidentiality.
  • Integrity. 
  • Privacy. 
  • Processing. 

SOC-2 is a voluntary standard, and organizations can tailor the reports according to their unique internal and external data management requirements! Depending on their specific business functions, they can design controls to comply with one or more trust and security principles under HIPAA.

There are two SOC-2 report types, including

  • Type 1- describes the healthcare organization’s systems and how securely it complies with the relevant standards or principles to become HIPAA compliant. 
  • Type 2- mentions the systems’ operational efficiency. 

All healthcare providers and associated organizations have a SOC-2 compliance checklist, including

  • Access controls– physical and practical restrictions to prevent unauthorized access to PHI. 
  • System operations– safety controls to monitor current practices, spot deviations from HIPAA and organization functionalities, and resolve them. 
  • Change management– processes to manage IT system changes and procedures to prevent unauthorized personnel from modifying them.
  • Mitigating risk– methods that allow healthcare institutions to detect risks in advance, take action, and mitigate them. 

Thus, the SOC-2 certification under HIPAA helps organizations keep up with compliance standards and improves efficiency. 

What is HIPAA IT?

HIPAA is not only about physical files or paper-based records containing patient data. Many people are unaware that HIPAA applies to Electronically Protected Health Information (ePHI)—with healthcare IT on the rise today.

IT in the health industry is short for Information Technology. It covers all healthcare data compilation, transmission, and management activities providers undertake online. Institutions must use HIPAA IT-compliance systems only to receive, store, share, and alter ePHI. 

Anything that comes in contact with ePHI must follow specific security and privacy standards to ensure the provider follows the HIPAA regulations properly. 

Consider the use of excel files or spreadsheets as an example to understand HIPAA IT better. Typically, healthcare providers may draft many such files to manage their internal operations, handle staffing, and overlook physician management. Though they might think these records do not need to be HIPAA-compliant, they are wrong. It also consists of PHI to some extent, and institutions should install the essential safeguards to protect this electronic data. 

Similarly, they must ensure to send emails or online messages using safe systems to patients to avoid breaching HIPAA IT regulations. 

Do Direct Mail Printers Have In-Built Data Security?

Not all direct mail printing vendors have the appropriate data safety and protection measures. These printers might only agree to produce flyers, brochures, postcards, promotional materials, standees, etc., that do not comprise PHI. Hence, they do not need an in-built security system because they don’t cater to healthcare providers. 

HIPAA-compliant printers use features like data encryption, a built-in firewall, and frequent firmware updates to keep up with the latest security loopholes. They might also have a software program to spot intrusions before a breach occurs and stop them. 

For example, PostGrid’s HIPAA-compliant direct mail services offer in-built compliance to help healthcare organizations and related entities draft and send items securely. 

Does HIPAA apply to an organization's advertising activities?

Yes. HIPAA applies to all promotional activities, including email marketing campaigns, direct mail advertising, telemarketing, etc. Many hospitals, clinics, test centers, etc., confuse healthcare operations or treatment with marketing communications. 

The reason is that the overlap between these correspondence activities is inevitable. For instance, health plans and providers often advise patients to buy specific services or health-related products while treating them. Similarly, health insurance agencies explaining its features to patients come under marketing and need them to follow the HIPAA rules. 

Please note that you may need the patient’s authorization before using their PHI or disclosing it to third parties in case of some marketing communications.

Can you offer examples of HIPAA violations?

Yes, we can help you with some examples that give you a deeper understanding of HIPAA violations. 

  1. One mistake most organizations make is failing to conduct an organizational-level risk analysis- This prevents them from detecting risks and identifying breaches at the desired time. It compromises the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of PHI. 
  2. Another example is not signing a business associate agreement with vendors. Choosing a HIPAA-compliant direct mail vendor like PostGrid is only step one. Entering into a legally-binding contract that ensures your data security is the second and most crucial requirement providers must fulfill. 
  3. Not cleansing and updating your patient database from time to time can also result in a HIPAA violation. With millions of Americans moving yearly, chances are your records get outdated now and then. Try conducting a CASS and NCOA verification to ensure you have the correct delivery addresses. Otherwise, you might print and mail sensitive health documents to incorrect destinations, increasing the possibility of PHI falling into the wrong hands. Hence, PostGrid offers address validation capabilities to providers to overcome this challenge and mail accurately!
  4. A registered doctor or nurse posting pictures of their patient on social media (even if they did not mention the name) can trigger a HIPAA violation. Someone over the internet can identify the patient seeing the image, making it a breach of their security. 
  5. A healthcare worker’s lost phone or laptop may lead to unauthorized access. The HIPAA regulations and rules require organizations to ensure their devices are always password-protected. Moreover, they should not leave their devices unattended after logging in and use data encryption. 

What is not a HIPAA violation that healthcare providers might not know?

If you operate a healthcare facility, it is hard to say what comes under HIPAA violations. A business requiring you to prove you took a vaccination before allowing entry is not a HIPAA violation. They own the premises and reserve the right to deny access unless you produce the necessary documents or ID. 

Furthermore, your employer asking you to show a vaccination certificate or record before hiring you or letting you visit the workplace is not a violation. It also has nothing to do with HIPAA compliance because it is an internal issue, and the data does not count as PHI. 

Do local, county, or state healthcare departments use HIPAA-compliant print and mail?

Yes. Local, county and state health facilities that come under the definition of a covered entity must comply with the Privacy Rule. 

For example, the Medicaid programs for specific states are covered entities and follow all the HIPAA regulations the same way as other hospitals or providers. 

Many health departments operate public healthcare clinics and other facilities. The law treats them as covered entities if they store, transmit, or manage PHI like other providers.

These departments and other providers can use several tools to decide if they come under the covered entity definition. They must complete their job of taking these tests and following the relevant rules to avoid penalties. 

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