This guide describes how HIPAA relates to healthcare organizations' use of CRM software, and how these businesses can ensure compliance with the cybersecurity requirements of the law.
- Healthcare organizations use CRM software for monitoring patients, billing, streamlining internal workflows, reporting, and finding new patients.
- Because they store sensitive information on patients, all healthcare CRMs must comply with HIPAA.
- When choosing a HIPAA-compliant CRM, you should look for data and employee access safeguards, scalability, automated data backup, and customer references.
- This article is for medical practice owners looking for customer relationship management (CRM) software that obeys HIPAA information privacy regulations.
As a healthcare provider, you should make patient data security and privacy as much a priority as the patients' health. Patients may not want all their healthcare information to be widely available – and they have a legal right to healthcare data security and privacy.
The primary law governing healthcare data security is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. The wide-ranging law covers any devices that contain or transmit protected health information (PHI), including data collected by your customer relationship management software. The benefits of CRM software can be significant for healthcare organizations, but only if these solutions are properly secured and monitored.
After all, healthcare organizations are increasingly prime targets for cyberattacks. In 2020, the number of cyberattacks targeting the healthcare industry – already a common target for malicious hackers – spiked by 45%.
The benefits of a HIPAA-compliant CRM are many, but only if you monitor, detect and mitigate any cyberattacks threatening your patients' PHI. Below, we'll walk you through CRM usage in healthcare and the importance of finding a HIPAA-compliant CRM.
CRM in healthcare
A healthcare CRM with data analytics can help you determine which of your patients might need additional care or identify patients who are behind on their follow-ups and tests. You can also use your practice's CRM to manage patient prescriptions and appointments.
Increasingly, healthcare CRMs are adding remote patient-monitoring capabilities. If you own a medical practice and install a CRM with remote patient-monitoring tools, you can log in to your CRM to see a patient's vitals in real time. You'll first need to prescribe the patient remote monitoring tools, such as blood pressure pumps and glucose tests that they can use at home, and then you can check their vitals at any time.
Additionally, a CRM can help you navigate the complexities of medical billing, improve your practice's workflows, and report on patient complaints and internal challenges. Some healthcare facilities also use CRMs for marketing campaigns to attract new patients.
Key takeaway: In healthcare, CRMs are used for patient monitoring and have additional applications in billing, managing, reporting and marketing.
When do you need HIPAA-compliant CRM software?
All CRM software used in healthcare must comply with HIPAA, because the law applies to all patient data with which healthcare providers interact. Title II of HIPAA specifies the guidelines that healthcare providers must follow regarding patient data and has one rule each for transactions, identifiers, enforcement, privacy, and security.
Key takeaway: If your business is a covered entity under HIPAA, it always needs HIPAA-compliant CRM software.
What makes a CRM HIPAA-compliant?
A CRM software platform is HIPAA-compliant if it ensures that all patient data remains confidential, backed up and securely stored. You must only transmit encrypted data and have complete control over the data in your CRM – that means no unauthorized intake, access, creation, storage or sharing of data. To be safe, you might also want to see if your CRM has been certified by an organization specializing in information security and privacy.
Key takeaway: A HIPAA-compliant CRM keeps all patient data demonstrably secure and private.
What to look for in a HIPAA-compliant CRM
These are the most important features to seek in a HIPAA-compliant CRM:
Employee access. A HIPAA-compliant CRM should have safeguards to ensure that different levels of employees have role-appropriate levels of access to patient data. For example, receptionists should only have access to basic identifying information, but nurses and doctors will need to see patients' vitals as well.
Data security. To be HIPAA-compliant, your CRM should have additional data security features beyond employee access measures. It should categorize data into tiers of security and automatically block access to employees based on their job role and the data level. It should also timestamp all data changes with the CRM user's identity to make alterations traceable.
Ample cybersecurity knowledge. Although a CRM platform is a program rather than a person, anyone from the CRM company should be able to articulate the software's cybersecurity strengths and weaknesses when they speak to you. Ask your sales rep to explain how the CRM handles endpoint security, patches, HTTPS and other areas of cybersecurity. Their answers will demonstrate how highly the company values HIPAA compliance.
Success stories. A HIPAA-compliant CRM company should be willing and able to provide references and possibly case studies of healthcare providers who have had success with its CRM services. You can reach out to references to learn more about the CRM's HIPAA compliance features, and you should compare the case study's solutions to your needs.
Ability to scale. In case your practice grows, it's important to choose a HIPAA-compliant CRM that can work for healthcare organizations of all sizes. When you look through your CRM's success stories, you should try to find proof of work with larger healthcare organizations. A track record of this work indicates that your CRM can stay with you as you grow and suggests that it will work for you while you're still on the small side.
Data backup. Data loss is among the most severe consequences of a cybersecurity breach. A HIPAA-compliant CRM will guard against this problem by regularly backing up your data, perhaps to more than one location.
- Security alerts. Some HIPAA-compliant CRMs will almost instantly alert you to data breaches so you can quickly act on them. Rapid response to a data breach is critical for all businesses, particularly healthcare organizations dealing in sensitive and potentially lifesaving information.
Key takeaway: When looking for a HIPAA-compliant CRM, you should check for data and employee access safeguards, scalability, automated data backup, references, and additional cybersecurity features.
Top CRM systems for HIPAA compliance
The following are some of the best-regarded HIPAA-compliant CRM software programs.
Keap is a HIPAA-compliant, user-friendly CRM software platform that's well suited for new and small healthcare organizations. You can use Keap to store and organize your patients' information in a system that your team can access as needed. It's also useful for patient acquisition, and as of January 2021, Keap has added over 2,000 apps to its library of compatible integrations.
Popular CRM platform Freshworks has an additional suite for healthcare providers. The Freshworks Healthcare CRM is HIPAA-compliant by nature. You can use it at your practice to store schedules and patient data in one location rather than across several programs. Freshworks says that with this centralized data hub, your patient satisfaction and internal workflows (including billing) are likely to improve.
Salesforce has long been a leader in the CRM field, and the Salesforce Health Cloud offshoot is no exception. You can use it to personalize the care and messages your patients receive from your practice. It can also help establish one-on-one connections between your staff and your patients and make your data more actionable. Note that payers, not just providers, can use Salesforce Health Cloud, so it can streamline the payment process between you and your patients or their insurance providers.
NexHealth is a HIPAA-compliant CRM that facilitates online scheduling, telehealth appointments, waitlists and appointment reminders. It integrates with most major electronic health record (EHR) vendors and includes reporting features and patient payment portals. The NexHealth tiers have different features; some even have capabilities for marketing campaigns and automated follow-up appointment outreach.
PatientPop is a HIPAA-compliant CRM with both internal and external features. It enables automated appointment emails, flexible online booking, patient surveys, and a stronger online presence for your practice. It also fully integrates with most EHR, electronic medical record (EMR) and practice management platforms. As such, PatientPop is equally useful for enhancing the patient experience and finding brand-new patients as it is for streamlining your internal workflows.
Caspio is a HIPAA-compliant CRM solution geared toward larger healthcare organizations. It allows for easy CRM customization without in-depth coding operations or modification. It's a great choice if you want to grow your practice's services beyond standard medical appointments. For example, if you want to expand into healthcare industry consulting or other non-patient-facing fields, Caspio facilitates this growth. That's because its easy customization allows the creation of numerous interrelated online databases.
Key takeaway: The best HIPAA-compliant CRMs are Keap, Freshworks, Salesforce, NexHealth, PatientPop and Caspio.
Choose your healthcare CRM wisely
Before reading this article, you were likely aware that HIPAA compliance poses additional challenges when you're choosing a CRM. Now that you know what those challenges are, you're one step closer to thorough patient data security and privacy in your medical practice.