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A common question that many people have is whether email is an acceptable medium for health information exchange. The handling and sharing of medical records is an issue that is relevant to millions of patients, providers, and payers. Billing and medical history, images and test results are routinely faxed, mailed and emailed between various parties.

Protecting Patient PHI

Due to its immediacy and broad accessibility, email is often considered the most popular of these three options. Unfortunately, the main disadvantage of using email to share sensitive healthcare data is that it lacks security. Read this article to learn more about whether email for record exchanges is ever okay in the context of patient PHI.

Security, Privacy and Protection

The lack of security when it comes to email should have doctors and patients feeling nervous every time they attach sensitive medical information to an email. The main security issue with email is the lack of encryption. In general, medical records are unencrypted when transmitted via email. Not only is this true when the medical records are in transit, but also when they are on the servers of the email providers. This lack of protection means the medical information is vulnerable as soon as you click “Send.”

In the eyes of many, it is a no-no to exchange medical records by email. Doing so risks exposing the personal information and medical histories of patients to hackers seeking to take advantage of their personal health information (PHI). This information may include medical as well as other private information, such as diagnoses for chronic illnesses and social security numbers. This information landing in the wrong hands can have devastating effects for all parties involved.

HIPAA compliance

Regulatory compliance with HIPAA is related to the issue of security. Unencrypted emails are simply not secure. To be compliant with HIPAA regulations, email communication needs to be encrypted. Data breaches during the time period between 2009 and 2012 caused millions of patient medical records to be compromised. Unfortunately, over time, the number of HIPAA data breaches continues to increase.

According to HIPAA, it is the responsibility of individual healthcare providers to ensure the security and privacy of their patients’ records. Unencrypted emails can be hacked on the server-side or while in transit, leading to a breach of security in the health information exchange. For a first offense, HIPAA can levy fines against hospitals and other medical organizations up to $50,000. Not only is there a price to pay in terms of penalties but also a loss of patient confidence and plenty of bad publicity when a data breach occurs.

Sending and Receiving Large Files

The final disadvantage of email is that it is not as convenient for the sending and receiving of large files. If you want to share high-quality images of MRIs, CT scans, x-rays, and other tests, email is not the best medium. Email services cannot handle the large file sizes that these images demand. Due to this inadequacy, many physicians find themselves forced to burn the necessary files on CDs and then send them to other medical providers or third-party requestors.


Due to the many risks and disadvantages associated with using email to send medical records, here are just a few of the reasons you should opt to use ChartSwap for electronically sending billing and medical records. Some advantages of ChartSwap include the following:

  • The platform can only be accessed by verified users.
  • The software provides automated audit trails that show who has taken any action within the portal and when.
  • There is a detailed history available for each request, within the secure and HIPAA-compliant portal.
  • All IP addresses used to access the platform are logged and kept on record.

Switching from using email to using ChartSwap will quickly prove beneficial for both your organization and your patients. You will be protecting your organization against data breaches and ensuring that your organization is compliant with HIPAA regulations.

To learn more about signing up as a registered ChartSwap provider, contact us or request a free demo today!

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Chinh Phan

Author Chinh Phan

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