This article will cover the issue of Betterhelp and it’s compliance to HIPAA and also explain what the HIPAA privacy rule is. Furthermore, the article will apprise the audience of what types of information Bettehrelp can collect on you, why and how; that is it will define Betterhelp and it’s services which is the likely medium through which it collects data on it’s clients.
Is Betterhelp HIPAA Compliant?
Yes Betterhelp is HIPAA compliant and this is evident not only from it’s terms and conditions section on its website but also the multiple procedures it follows and the security systems it has put in place to protect your data. We will look at how Betterhelp is complying with HIPAA by studying the following areas:
- What Information Betterhelp Collects
- Security Procedures
- Services – How They Ensure HIPAA Compliance
Before we look at these in detail, let us take a look at what HIPAA is and what it demands of ‘entities’.
What Is HIPAA?
It stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which is US legislation intended to protect medical information through data privacy laws and security provisions. This is a very important law keeping in mind recent years when the emergence of cyber attacks and data hacking has become a frequent phenomena; such laws ensure that different entities take all precautions when it comes to protecting data.
Before we deep dive into what HIPAA demands, we must understand who it covers:
- Healthcare Providers: This term includes, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, pharmacies, dentists, chiropractors, clinics and nursing homes.
- Health Plan: Under this comes health insurance companies, health maintenance organizations, government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid as well as military health initiatives.
- Healthcare Clearinghouse: These entities are aimed at processing non-medical information into a certain format and include billing companies or community healthcare systems for managing health related data.
Now that we know whom HIPAA applies to, we can better understand this law.
This law has a number of objectives. Firstly it ensures that everyone is capable of getting health insurance especially those who have changed or lost their jobs as well as those individuals who already suffer from pre existing conditions. Secondly, it states that national standards must be adopted when it comes to processing electronic healthcare transactions and data. Another objective it has includes tax related provisions and guidelines for medical care. It also refers to issues that include who gets insurance and who doesn’t. All in all, it is a comprehensive law aimed at protecting the data rights of individuals with regards to medical care.
What is interesting and of our concern is the HIPAA Privacy Rule which we will now look at in detail.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule
It covers the national standard rules of individually identifiable health information with the aim of protecting patients personal health information. It requires all entities and their business associates that are covered by HIPAA to follow this rule. The privacy rule directs doctors to inform patients about which segments of their information will be shared with who for what purposes. At the same time, the rule gives patients the right to request for their protected health information (PHI).
What information is protected under the rule? Take a look:
- A patient’s name, birth details, contact information, social security number and other personally identifiable information (PPI).
- The past, present or future health condition of an individual.
- Treatment details provided to the individual
- Payment details of treatment that can be used to identify that person.
How Does Betterhelp Comply to HIPAA?
What Information Betterhelp Collects
It is important that Betterhelp is aware of the information they are collecting and using only then will they be in a position to assess if they are required to comply under HIPAA law. The following information is collected by Betterhelp:
- Personal information as identified by California Customer Records Statute
- Protected Classification Characteristics (as under California Law)
- Internet Activity
- Geolocation data
- Inferences drawn from personal information
All this information is listed on their website and shows they are aware of the information they are collecting. They have also stated that they do not collect personal information that is excluded from the scope of CCPA which includes guidelines by HIPAA.
Now, we will examine how Betterhelp undertakes the guidelines HIPAA has drawn out.
As a HIPAA compliant, Betterhelp understands that they need to ensure maximum protection of the data of their clients. They use an SSL encryption and banking grade 256 bit encryption, they are hosted under the most secure servers because they value your privacy and realize that sensitive information is exchanged on their platform.
Apart from that, they also allow clients to use their false name when interacting with their counselors or assigned service providers. Their information is not shared – contact information – with their service providers when they connect to them for sessions.
Services – How they Ensure HIPAA Compliance
It is necessary for Betterhelp to engage in the following as they are HIPAA compliant:
- Employees need to be trained on different procedures
- Appropriate administrative and technical safeguards must be employed to protect the privacy of data – Betterhelp has a secure website
- Individuals must be able to complain, request or provide suggestions to entity – Betterhelp allows it’s clients to reach out to them in multiple ways
Now that we understand Betterhelp is an entity/business associate that complies to HIPAA law, let us take a look at what exactly Betterhelp is and how it connects to it’s clients!
What Is Betterhelp?
Betterhelp is one of the largest online platforms that provides multiple services for all types of people who are suffering from mental health problems and require counseling. What is great about this service is that it is online hence it is available anywhere and every time. You do not have to go to the doctor’s office to get an appointment or wait in line for your turn. This is great if you feel pretty down and getting out of bed is a challenge for you!
With approximately 1700 licensed therapists available online at the click of a button, Betterhelp ensures that its clients receive the best help they can get by connecting them to professional therapists and counselors who know what they need to do This is apparent by the total number of sessions which Betterhelp has already conducted from their platform; a whopping 70 million sessions already completed! This is possible because the company understands the needs of clients well and hence provides therapy related services to them online and not just at physical location. In a world where things are changing constantly and the unknown is always around the corner, it is becoming more of a need rather than a desire to get services online and at your doorstep – we simply don’t have time nowadays!
How Does Betterhelp Collect Information On You – A Detective In Disguise
Here are 3 ways Betterhelp collects information on you:
- Direct: The information you supply to them especially through the intake form
- Indirect: Observing your options on their website
- Other Sources: Business partners such as other social media sites.
Betterhelp claims that in the last 12 months they have not sold client’s data to any other party and use it to improve services provided to you.
What Services Does Betterhelp Provide?
How does Betterhelp reach out to its clients? Let us take as look at the following to find out:
- Chatrooms: These are open 24/7 and you can drop a message any time you feel like doing so. However, your counselor will only get back to you once they have the time or chance to. Usually people like dropping questions they want opinions on from their counselor and don’t mind waiting a bit.
- Live Chatting Sessions: here you can chat with your counselor in real time and there really is no limit on the number of messages exchanged or time spent talking here. It depends on the needs of the client and the nature of the problem.
- Live Phone Calls: Kind of like Skype this platform has their own system set up where you can have audio sessions with your service provider. It does not show your contact details to the counselor for reasons of privacy and in case the counselor and counselee become direct.
- Video Sessions: clients who are more comfortable or want a more personalized experience can also opt for video sessions. Like other mediums of interaction, there is no limit on these although people mostly hold the opinion that 1 or 2 sessions per week are sufficient.
The article apprised readers that Betterhelp is compliant to HIPAA law and undertakes a number of steps to ensure that client’s data is protected – medical data. Furthermore, the article described what HIPAA basically is so the readers can have a complete understanding of the topic. Lastly, the article explained what Betterhelp basically is and what services they offer.