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Deliver safe, secure collaboration while satisfying the needs of stakeholders across the business

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Improve your risk posture with a purpose-built solution for collaboration

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Scale, orchestrate and streamline your eDiscovery process for employee collaboration
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Establish a proactive approach to collaboration compliance and information governance

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Harness insights from surveys and collaboration data to transform the employee experience

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Enterprise Collaboration & HIPAA Compliance

by Aware

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal regulation that secures patient confidentiality. HIPAA affirms the right that a patient has to their body and the information associated to their private health. HIPAA violations can range from $100 to $50,000 per incident.

Paying close attention to violations is more important than ever with the introduction of collaboration tools that are transforming business practices across the healthcare industry.

Protecting electronic personal health information (ePHI) is often a major concern when rolling out a collaboration tool, but with proper controls in place, this concern can be alleviated. 

Doctors, surgeons, nurses, or any other healthcare professionals should have the ability to collaborate and drive business goals while remaining complaint with HIPAA. 

Why Are So Many Companies Rolling Out Digital Collaboration?

In the past, email was the primary method of communicating with peers in the workplace. But email can be a notoriously slow and formal style of communication that can take over an employee’s day—or go ignored for weeks. Collaboration tools arose as the solution to cutting through the formalities of email and streamlining communications.

Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Workplace from Meta, and Slack allow for real-time communications so that professionals can swiftly communicate and get an immediate response.

While the value of these tools is undeniable, they also present increased risk for organizations that need to maintain HIPAA compliance throughout their communications. Information security and legal officers want to know, is Slack HIPAA compliant? Does Microsoft Teams have HIPAA protections? Shielding the organization from liability while giving collaboration the green light is the challenge facing healthcare providers today. 

Is Collaboration HIPAA Compliant? What Does a HIPAA Violation Look like in a Collaboration Tool?

The pandemic underlined the urgent need for healthcare providers to find new ways to communicate quickly and effectively across teams, departments and organizations. Collaboration tools like Workplace, Teams and Slack met those needs, helping healthcare providers deliver more effective care. 

However, misuse of a collaboration network has the potential to open a healthcare provider to a HIPAA violation. Here are some common examples of HIPAA violations within Slack, Teams, and other collaboration networks:

Sharing Private Patient Information

Patient information is sensitive and unnecessary access to personal data is considered a HIPAA violation.  However, that hasn’t stopped numerous healthcare workers from accessing and leaking celebrity healthcare information. Even employees who don’t have malicious intent can still accidentally breach HIPAA if they mistake a workplace collaboration tool for a secure repository where they can share sensitive patient information.

Misusing File Content and File Types

Medical records are forbidden from being shared on unsecure networks — and doing so can lead to significant fines, as was the case in  2016, when five physicians paid a six-figure settlement for posting medical procedure dates on a public cloud calendar. In their drive for greater accessibility, collaboration tools sync information in real time across devices, potentially transmitting sensitive files and data around VPNs and other standard security measures.

In bypassing secured networks, collaboration tools can open healthcare organizations up to HIPAA violations if they don’t control the information being shared within them. 

Making Public Inquiries That Violate a Patients Privacy

Collaboration tools allow employees to ask their colleagues questions about best practices and recommendations. However, it is a HIPAA violation to share any protected health information on any collaboration tool. This is a major concern for front-line workers that interact with patients regularly and may inadvertently share PHI when simply looking for an answer to general questions.

Learn more about HIPAA compliance in Slack

Using the Aware Signal App to Help Maintain HIPAA Compliance

In the digital age, where employers have deployed workstream collaboration tools to encourage employees to problem solve in real-time, it is imperative for employers to also deploy a real-time governance solution.

Collaboration has the potential to improve patient care and increase employee engagement. However, rolling out a governance solution alongside a collaboration tool is critical to ensure safe, secure, and compliant employee communication.

— Kaitlyn Debelak, Head of Customer Success, Aware

Aware's Signal app has a multitude of configurable capabilities that can enable your organization to roll out a collaboration tool—while confidently maintaining HIPAA compliance in Slack, Teams and other collaboration tools.

Our out-of-the-box policies are trusted by industry leaders and solve for a wide array of regulations, including HIPAA. Users can also configure policies to meet their organization’s specific needs.

Nuanced Keyword Filtering Capabilities 

Through AI-infused keyword filtering and configurable regular expressions, leaders can detect shared content in messages, such as date of birth, patient numbers, and credit card information.

File Sharing and Type Pattern Detection

The capability to identify what and when files are shared by employees, gives leaders further visibility into unauthorized information sharing throughout an organization.

Configurable Real-Time Responses

Administrators can set automated actions such as Flag, Report, or Delete in response to triggered policies, immediately taking action to remove sensitive information and coach employees in real time.

For example, if a nurse is asking a question about a treatment but accidentally shares a patient's name, Aware can identify the PHI breach and immediately delete or tombstone the message.

An additional policy can be set up to send a note to the employee, educating them on their HIPAA responsibilities. 

Learn How to Overcome Common Barriers to Enterprise-Wide Rollout 

Digital collaboration tools are changing the way enterprises around the globe communicate and innovate.

The promised days of next-gen collaboration are here and it’s time for your organization to jump on the train—or risk getting left behind. Bring Aware to your organization today!

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Topics:Compliance AdherenceEnterprise Collaboration