How to Increase Patient Engagement While Complying with HIPAA

Healthcare technology is ever-changing, and as a result, the way that you can promote your practice and keep in touch with your patients is changing as well. For most healthcare organizations, marketing to patients and keeping them engaged with your practice becomes more complex as you consider HIPAA implications. Utilizing a software service to increase patient engagement can be a good strategy to easily promote your practice, however, you must ensure that the service that you use for this is HIPAA compliant. More details on HIPAA compliant patient engagement, and how to choose the right software for this are discussed.

HIPAA Compliant Patient Engagement 

HIPAA Compliant Patient Engagement

When you are marketing to patients it is important to consider whether or not your communications are HIPAA compliant. There are certain marketing practices that are best practices for businesses, but when used in a healthcare setting need to be carefully considered to avoid violating HIPAA. Something as little as replying to an online patient review improperly, or sending a patient an email without their permission to receive such communications, are considered HIPAA violations.

The following are some of the ways that you can communicate with patients effectively, and in a HIPAA compliant manner.

Email marketing.

Email marketing can be a good way to reach patients when your practice has undergone a change, or is running a promotion. It can also be a good way to boost your patient engagement by sending out a newsletter that goes out to patients periodically. To better connect with patients on a personal level, you may also consider adding in patient testimonials to your email communications, however, to do so requires written patient consent. 

In any case, before you can use email in compliance with HIPAA, you must obtain written consent from patients to communicate with them in this manner prior to sending an email. In addition, you must provide means for a patient to easily opt-out of emails should they no longer wish to receive them. Lastly, you must ensure that the email platform itself is HIPAA compliant. This is because patient email addresses are classified as protected health information (PHI) under HIPAA, and as such, email providers must have certain protections in place to secure that PHI.

Online scheduling.

Calling a medical or dental office to schedule an appointment when you have limited availability in your schedule can be frustrating. There is often a lot of back and forth between the patient and office administrator to find an available appointment slot that works for the patient. This is why 64% of patients say they would prefer to schedule their appointments online.

Making it easier for patients to schedule their own appointments will not only increase patient satisfaction, but will also ultimately improve their quality of care.This is because the convenience of an online scheduler will make it more likely that they schedule their routine and preventative care appointments. 

It is important to note that, since patients will be required to input their PHI (i.e. name, phone number, email address) to book an appointment, the tool used for online scheduling must be HIPAA compliant.

Appointment confirmation and reminders.

Traditionally, providers have issued appointment confirmations and reminders through phone calls, or by sending reminder cards in the mail. As less people answer a phone call, or look through their mail, these types of communications can easily be lost or ignored. A better way to get through to patients is by sending a text message or email to confirm appointments, or remind patients to schedule their regular visits. However, if you’d like to communicate with patients via email or text, HIPAA requires you to receive patient consent prior to sending appointment confirmations or reminders in this manner. You must also confirm that the platform you use to send the reminders is HIPAA compliant. 

Patient satisfaction surveys.

Patient satisfaction surveys provide you with insight into how you can improve your practice to increase patient engagement. HIPAA permits providers to survey their patients as they are deemed “quality assessment and improvement activities.” There is a stipulation however. Providers are required to note in their Notice of Privacy Practices that a patient’s PHI may be shared to improve healthcare operations. In addition, if you are issuing patient surveys via an online portal, the service must be HIPAA compliant.

HIPAA Compliant Patient Engagement Software

Many of the ways in which patient engagement can improve require the use of HIPAA compliant software, but what constitutes software compliance? It really comes down to two things. Does the software protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI, and is the software provider willing to sign a business associate agreement? If the answer to both is yes, then the software service can be used in compliance with HIPAA regulations. However, it is generally up to the end user to ensure that the software is being used in the way it should be. This is why it is essential to train employees on the proper use of the software before they use it. Additionally, unless the software was specifically created for healthcare organizations, the software will require the end user to configure it in a certain way to enable HIPAA compliant usage.

PatientPop is a HIPAA compliant patient engagement software that allows healthcare providers to use their service confidently as it was created with patient privacy in mind. All of the security measures required to ensure PHI protection are built right into the software. And as the service was made for healthcare providers, they are ready to sign business associate agreements with their clients.

About PatientPop

PatientPop drives results for practices with a platform they’ve designed specifically for providers, focusing on the critical areas of practice growth, from a superior web presence and SEO to proven content marketing strategies. All from a single solution.

Every digital touchpoint is optimized for both desktop and mobile, and ensures a modern, convenient HIPAA-compliant experience. As your practice grows, they leverage their proprietary data to determine the right strategies, while continually evolving their cloud-based offerings, to keep you one step ahead of the changing digital landscape.

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