HIPAA-compliant web forms

May 09, 2024

Create online forms that protect sensitive patient data

Over the last 28 years strict HIPAA regulations have been instrumental in safeguarding the private health information of millions of Americans. As digital health evolves, protecting patient sensitive data remains a cornerstone of confidentiality. And because medical web forms are the main platform for patient data exchange, it’s essential to ensure they’re HIPAA-compliant.

HIPAA-compliant web forms, such as patient intake forms and satisfaction surveys, ensure that patient data transmitted through digital channels is protected. In this article we’ll delve into the importance of HIPAA compliance for web forms in healthcare settings and highlight some of the top form builders today.

Note that this article is not legal advice. You should seek professional guidance to determine your specific compliance obligations.

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What is HIPAA compliance?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) aims to protect sensitive patient information through a comprehensive set of rules. It outlines guidelines for securely handling this information, including measures like encryption and access controls. Compliance with HIPAA regulations is vital for healthcare organizations to ensure both legal adherence and the protection of patient privacy, trust, and security.

For digital health companies, HIPAA compliance extends to web forms that collect patient information, including appointment scheduling forms, intake forms, and patient satisfaction surveys. Any connected workflow components, such as data storage, transmission, and processing, must also adhere to HIPAA regulations to maintain the security and privacy of patient information throughout its lifecycle. 

Who needs to adhere to HIPAA regulations?

Adherence to HIPAA regulations is mandatory for a wide range of entities involved in the healthcare industry. This includes covered entities such as healthcare providers and health plans, as well as business associates of covered entities.

  • Healthcare providers, such as hospitals, clinics, physician practices and pharmacies handle patients' protected health information (PHI) as part of their day-to-day operations and are therefore subject to HIPAA regulations.
  • Health plans, which include insurance companies, HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations), and government healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid, also fall under HIPAA's purview. These organizations collect and process PHI to administer health benefits and manage claims, making HIPAA compliance essential to protect the privacy and security of patients' health information.
  • Business associates of covered entities handle PHI on behalf of covered entities. This includes a wide range of service providers, such as billing companies, IT vendors, form builders and data storage providers.

Are web forms HIPAA-compliant?

Web forms aren’t inherently HIPAA compliant; their compliance hinges on design, implementation and usage. Generally, achieving HIPAA compliance involves incorporating encryption, access controls, audit trails and secure data management to protect sensitive PHI. Using a HIPAA-compliant form builder can streamline this process, ensuring that the forms meet HIPAA’s security and privacy standards.

Do website contact forms need to be HIPAA compliant?

Website contact forms that collect or transmit PHI must adhere to HIPAA regulations to ensure the security and confidentiality of patient information. You have to assess whether the information you’re handling qualifies as PHI, which includes:

  1. Patient's name
  2. Patient's address
  3. Patient's date of birth
  4. Patient's Social Security number
  5. Patient's medical record number
  6. Health insurance policy number
  7. Any other unique identifying number, characteristic, or code

Plus, any information related to the patient's past, present, or future physical or mental health condition, provision of healthcare, or payment for healthcare services is generally considered PHI.

Do health quizzes need to be HIPAA compliant?

If you have health quizzes that collect PHI, they’re subject to HIPAA regulations and must be implemented with appropriate security measures to maintain compliance. Your form’s data transmission, storage and processing methods should adhere to HIPAA standards to protect patient information.

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Advantages of using web forms in healthcare 

There are some important advantages to using digital healthcare forms. Let’s take a look some of them:

  1. Convenience: Patients can conveniently fill out forms from the comfort of their homes or on-the-go, reducing the need for physical paperwork and office visits.
  2. Efficiency: Online forms streamline data collection processes, reducing administrative burden and freeing up staff time for other tasks. Platforms like Formsort offer form templates that you can customize for your specific needs, saving you time and effort in building forms from scratch while ensuring compliance with industry standards.
  3. Accuracy: Web forms can include validation rules and prompts, helping to ensure that patients provide complete and accurate information.
  4. Accessibility: Web forms can be accessed from any internet-enabled device, making them accessible to a wider range of patients, including those with mobility or transportation limitations.
  5. Cost savings: Eliminating paper-based forms can result in cost savings associated with printing, storage, and administrative overhead.
  6. Integration: Online forms can be easily integrated with other digital systems such as electronic health records (EHRs) or practice management software, streamlining data entry and reducing errors.
  7. Security: With proper implementation and adherence to HIPAA regulations, online forms can offer robust security measures to protect patient data from unauthorized access or breaches.
  8. Patient engagement: Interactive features such as dropdown menus, checkboxes, and conditional logic can enhance the user experience and encourage patient engagement with the form.

Which form builders are HIPAA-compliant?

When you’re looking for a HIPAA-compliant form builder, it’s important to verify their compliance status and request relevant documentation such as a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). Let’s look at a few popular form builders:

Are Google Forms HIPAA-compliant?

You can create HIPAA-compliant Google forms by subscribing to an appropriate Google Workspace package and signing a BAA with Google. You might still feel restricted in the design and functionality customization capabilities.

Are Typeform forms HIPAA-compliant?

Typeform offers a HIPAA-compliant tier that is suitable for managing PHI. You'll want to reach out to their sales team to find out more about it. For those looking to create more customized or brand-specific form designs, you may find that Typeform has certain limitations in functionality and design flexibility. 

Formsort for HIPAA-compliant web forms

Formsort was built from the ground up for healthcare use cases, and therefore offers HIPAA-compliant solutions, ensuring secure handling of sensitive healthcare data. In addition to compliance, Formsort provides advanced logic capabilities and options for brand-aligned design, allowing you to create tailored and cohesive healthcare web forms that reflect your brand identity while maintaining strict privacy standards.

Creating HIPAA-compliant web forms

Creating HIPAA-compliant web forms with a platform like Formsort is actually quite easy. You can start from a template or build from scratch, adding your questions and designing the look of your form. Once your form is ready, Formsort takes care of the rest— securely transmitting your patient health data to your chosen storage solution. Here’s the down-and-dirty of secure form building:

Step 1: Create a new form 

In the Formsort studio, click + New flow. You can select Start blank, which will ask you to choose a design theme, or Pick a template, which has pre-populated questions and a design theme. Whichever you select, you can customize the questions, logic and design later.

Step 2: Add questions  

Add steps (pages) and questions in the studio. You want to make sure you’re asking all the necessary questions for the form’s purpose, avoiding irrelevant questions that can deter responders. For inspiration, you can refer to our articles on medical history and eligibility forms for question ideas. You can also add branching logic to personalize the form. 

Step 3: Tailor the design

Formsort gives you complete control over the look and feel of your form. You can adjust colors, fonts, layout, hover effects, animation styles and more to align with your brand aesthetic. You can even use the Custom CSS feature to enhance design elements. 

Step 4: Add integrations

Since ensuring data privacy is of utmost importance in healthcare forms, Formsort doesn’t store your data long term and provides seamless integrations with secure data stores, analytics and payment processors. Simply navigate to your form's main page for the list of native integration options and select the data store that aligns best with your requirements.

For Salesforce users, seamlessly transmit data from incoming form submissions. Or you can leverage RudderStack to integrate data with other tools.

Step 5: Review and test

Review the form for errors before you deploy. Are the questions clear? Fonts legible? Is everything labeled correctly? Does the layout adapt responsibly to different devices? Do error messages help users correct mistakes in their responses? Test the form's functionality by previewing it. Go through the form like a user and make sure it progresses as expected, branches correctly, and doesn't break anywhere!  

You can add analytics to monitor user engagements, identify areas for enhancement, and continuously enhance the effectiveness of the over time.

Step 6: Get HIPAA compliance and publish

Reach out to the Formsort team to request your Business Associate Agreement (BAA).

To publish your form, click on the Deploy button at the top of the page. If the form has been published before, the button may appear as Redeploy. You can embed the form directly onto your website or use a customized subdomain for easy access.

Customizing a subdomain to align with your website's URL enhances trust, simplifies return visits to the form, and boosts SEO. Explore the benefits of establishing subdomains for your Formsort form to optimize your online presence.

Consequences of not being HIPAA-compliant

Non-compliance with HIPAA regulations can have serious consequences for healthcare organizations, including financial, legal, reputational, and operational repercussions. Patients expect their healthcare providers to protect the privacy and security of their personal health information. Without this, you might lose their trust or confidence in your services. Data breaches can damage your reputation and tarnish your organization's brand image, costing you future patients and business opportunities.

Legally, violating HIPAA regulations can result in significant fines and legal penalties imposed by regulatory authorities. Patients affected by data breaches or privacy violations may pursue legal action against your organization, leading to costly civil lawsuits and settlements. Plus, dealing with the aftermath of a data breach or regulatory investigation can disrupt normal operations, leading to productivity losses and increased expenses for remediation efforts.

As you can see in the table of penalties below, the government takes patient data security seriously. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) fines organizations for violations of HIPAA regulations, with penalties up to millions of dollars depending on the severity and scope of the breach. That’s why it’s important for healthcare organizations to invest in robust security measures to safeguard patient privacy and avoid these hefty fines (source).

HIPAA fines

Build secure, powerful healthcare forms with Formsort

Protecting patient data is both a legal necessity and a smart business decision. Secure forms are an integral part of your effort to uphold the highest standards of data security and compliance. Formsort’s robust security features make it ideal for building HIPAA-compliant healthcare forms like patient intake forms, medical history forms, qualification forms, and patient satisfaction surveys. A user-friendly interface, customizable templates, powerful conditional logic capabilities, and design customization features empower you to create uniquely tailored forms. 

Start building your next healthcare form with Formsort today. You can also check out Fineflows, our gallery of healthcare forms from around the web, for design inspiration.