Implementing safeguards for medical privacy laws per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is crucial for all healthcare organizations, whether protected information is communicated over the phone or via email. As long as the patient provides their consent, healthcare providers can safely send and receive protected health information (PHI) via encrypted emails or cloud faxes. However, obtaining the patient’s consent is not enough — the fax must be HIPAA compliant per the federal law restricting the release of medical information.
Learn more about the importance of medical HIPAA compliant fax cover sheets and other technical safeguarding measures healthcare organizations can use to protect ePHI.
What Are PHI and ePHI?
Protected health information is any health information with a patient’s personal identifiers, such as a name, date of birth or social security number. Any PHI that is electronically transmitted, whether by email or fax, is known as ePHI.
Why Do Faxes Need a Cover Sheet?
Because a cover sheet is the first thing the recipient will see when they open the fax, it is a physical barrier of protection. A medical HIPAA compliant fax cover sheet is a technical safeguard to deter accidental viewing and disclosure of protected information.
What Should a HIPAA Fax Cover Sheet Contain?
There are a few fields all HIPAA compliant fax cover sheets should include to keep the sender and the unauthorized recipient safe from an unintentional data breach. If you opt to download a free cover sheet template online, be sure to check for the following fields:
- The patient’s name and reference number
- The date and time you sent the fax
- A HIPAA cover sheet disclaimer
- Name of the individual sender
- Name of the covered entity or organization
- The sender’s fax number and phone number
- Name of the individual recipient
- Name of the recipient’s organization
- The recipient’s fax number and phone number
What Is an Example of a HIPAA Fax Disclaimer?
Your fax cover sheet will also require a HIPAA disclaimer. A HIPAA disclaimer serves to:
- Notify the recipient the fax contains classified patient health information.
- Safeguard against unauthorized viewing if the recipient is unfamiliar with HIPAA regulations.
- Protect the covered entity from liability should the information be viewed, copied or distributed.
A HIPAA disclaimer is reasonably straightforward by nature. First, it should state that HIPAA protects the fax’s enclosed information. Second, it should specify that if the recipient is not the intended individual or entity, they must contact and inform the sender of receipt and arrange the fax’s return or destruction.
Like cover sheet templates, you can find HIPAA fax disclaimer examples online. Here’s ours:
IMPORTANT: This fax contains confidential information, some or all of which is protected health information defined by the federal Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. This fax is exclusively intended for the entity or individual to whom it is addressed because it contains proprietary, privileged, protected and/or exempt information that is exempt from disclosure by federal law.
If you are not the addressed recipient (or an employee or agent responsible for delivery of this fax transmission to the intended individual or entity), you are hereby notified that disclosure, dissemination, copying, or distribution of the information enclosed is prohibited and you may be subject to legal restriction or sanction. Please notify the sender via telephone to arrange the return or destruction of the information enclosed and all copies.
Why Should Organizations Use a HIPAA Fax Cover Sheet?
It may surprise healthcare providers to learn HIPAA regulations don’t definitively state you need to include a cover sheet when you send protected information via fax. However, a HIPAA fax cover sheet is the simplest way to deter unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information if the fax arrives in the wrong hands. A fax cover sheet’s overall purpose is threefold:
- It provides the sender’s contact information so the unintended recipient can inform the sender.
- It tells the recipient to whom the fax was sent to encourage them not to look at the contents if not permitted to do so.
- It protects the covered entity from liability should the fax be illegally viewed, copied or distributed.
What Other Measures Can You Take to Ensure Privacy?
Outside of using a HIPAA fax cover sheet and disclaimer, there are other practices you can carry out to ensure the safe delivery of protected information.
- Verify the fax number: Occasionally, fax numbers change or are entered incorrectly during sending. Before you send a fax, call the intended organization to verbally confirm with a representative that the fax number you have on file is up to date.
- Notify your recipients: Call the organization to notify them when you send protected information. You can do this when you call to confirm the fax number, but even if you’re confident the fax number is correct, it is best to inform the intended recipient the information is coming their way — in case the fax fails or delivers to the wrong number.
- Print a delivery confirmation: Once the fax is successfully delivered, print the delivery confirmation for physical documentation. You can also review the printed delivery confirmation to confirm the fax number one last time. Occasionally, you may not notice an error — especially if it is a single digit — until you see the number in print.
Send Secure, HIPAA Compliant Faxes With ReplixFax
Many healthcare organizations opt for cloud-based faxing with a HIPAA fax service as a convenient method for creating HIPAA-compliant faxes. ReplixFax streamlines HIPAA compliance for healthcare providers and administrators with secured storage networks, Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption and other built-in safeguards. Our solutions are audit-friendly, enhance communication between EHRs and facilitate multidevice access for combined convenience and compliance.
In short, we ensure your ePHI healthcare faxes deliver seamlessly and compliantly. We’ve designed our cloud-based fax services with busy, patient-centered healthcare organizations in mind. Our ReplixFax cloud fax service is easy to use on the go thanks to its intuitive interface, saving healthcare providers and administrators valuable time and energy. Using our email-to-fax interface, sending a fax is as simple as attaching a file to an email, addressing it to the recipient’s fax number and hitting send.