If you work in an industry complementing traditional healthcare but operating as a fitness or mind/body business, HIPAA compliance has likely been an obstacle to growing your client base. If your services are covered by a patient’s health care provider, but your software scheduling system isn’t HIPAA-compliant, growing your client base past customers who are willing to pay out-of-pocket can be tough. Likewise, if you work in traditional healthcare services and need an integrated automated scheduling software and payment processing system, HIPAA compliance can limit your options. Here’s an overview of HIPAA compliance, what it means for your business, and how Vagaro’s HIPAA-compliance enabled software can help you with daily workflows.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Passed in 1996, this mandate is intended to ensure that a person’s Protected Healthcare Information (PHI, e-PHI for digital records and information) is consistently and securely protected by all healthcare professionals. PHI includes:

  • Names

  • Dates, except year

  • Telephone numbers

  • Geographic data

  • FAX numbers

  • Social Security numbers

  • Email addresses

  • Medical record numbers

  • Account numbers

  • Health plan beneficiary numbers

  • Certificate/license numbers

  • Vehicle identifiers and serial numbers including license plates

  • Web URLs

  • Device identifiers and serial numbers

  • Internet protocol addresses

  • Full face photos and comparable images

  • Biometric identifiers (i.e. retinal scan, fingerprints)

  • Any unique identifying number or code

Essentially, PHI/e-PHI can be any data a service professional collects from a patient that could potentially be used to identify them. HIPAA’s main objective is the protection of a patient’s PHI and control of how that information is used. Due to the diverse nature of healthcare and complementary wellness services, HIPAA was designed to be comprehensive and flexible.

Does My Business Need to Be HIPAA Compliant?

For those already working in traditional healthcare professions, HIPAA compliance is nothing new. But for wellness businesses who serve clients outside of traditional healthcare, HIPAA compliance opens a whole new world when it comes to building a client base. There are four main groupings of businesses required to be HIPAA compliant: health plans, most health care providers, health care clearing houses, and business associates. Many wellness businesses, holistic medicine providers, and alternative practitioners fall under the category of “health care providers,” particularly if their services are covered by a person’s medical coverage. However, for professionals working in these industries, using HIPAA-compliant software to safely and securely manage patient PHI has been an obstacle.

HIPAA and Wellness Businesses

In today’s digitally-driven world, it’s difficult to grow a service-based business without offering online scheduling. The wellness industry is consumer-driven, because its services rely on consumer choice, instead of necessity. This industry is holistic, complementary to traditional health care, and as such, multi-dimensional. Practitioners in the wellness sector provide services focusing on the fusion of fitness/mind/body, often integrating physical, mental, spiritual, and social elements together. Wellness practitioners don’t just treat illnesses alongside traditional health care services. Wellness businesses take a proactive approach to the management of chronic conditions, illness prevention, and improving a person’s overall quality of life. The worlds of medicine, wellness, and fitness have begun to overlap into “health and wellness services.” As such, many wellness businesses now collect PHI to deliver comprehensive wellness services. Consequently, because some wellness services are conducted in conjunction with traditional medical treatments or as a complement to traditional healthcare, they must be HIPAA-compliant.

What Wellness Business Can Benefit from HIPAA-Compliant Software?

Below are some examples of health and wellness services that can benefit from the addition of Vagaro’s HIPAA-compliant scheduling and payment processing software.

  • Fitness centers & health clubs – particularly if membership is covered by a customer’s health insurance, or facilities offering physical therapy or physical rehabilitation services.

  • Massage therapists – especially true if massage is prescribed by a health care provider as a complementary treatment.

  • Aestheticians, particularly those working in medical spas, clinics, or trauma centers

  • IV therapy

  • Chiropractors

  • Holistic and alternative medical practices (Cupping, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, floating therapy, naturopathy, homeopathy, herbal medicine, Tui Na, etc.)

  • Medical Spas – notably those offering facial rejuvenations and other similar procedures (Botox, fillers, microneedling, dermaplaning, sclerotherapy, etc.)

  • Personal training – particularly for physical therapists or trainers working with clients to manage chronic conditions or under the advice of a primary physician.

  • Dieticians and Nutritionists – includes stand-alone businesses, or professionals working within a fitness center.

  • Yoga – particularly if Yoga is recommended as part of a person’s recommended treatment or management of a chronic condition, and as such may be covered under a health care plan.

HIPAA-Compliant Software is a Must

At the heart of HIPAA compliance is the fact that when working with clients in wellness or fitness, privacy matters. This becomes increasingly important for service professionals entrusted with their clients’ PHI. This means it’s critical for wellness and fitness professionals who handle client PHI to integrate HIPAA best practices into every aspect of their business. This includes your online scheduling software and your payment processing system. Bear in mind that your scheduling software is just one tool your business can employ as part of your “Best Practices” to help you stay within the guidelines of HIPAA compliance. HIPAA requires a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) between businesses handling health information (the business) and the organization processing and storing their patients’ PHI data (the business associate). Remember, most of HIPAA compliance lies in your business protocols and practices.

How Vagaro Can Help You

If you work with client PHI, it’s important to carefully consider your choice of online scheduling platform, to ensure it meets your business needs without sacrificing your client’s security. Vagaro is in compliance with HIPAA’s Privacy Rule, Security Rule, and Omnibus Rule mandates, in accordance with the guidelines of the HIPAA. If your business handles PHI, you must have your own security protocols in place and maintain all requirements under various privacy policies that adhere to HIPAA compliance guidelines. Vagaro is proud to provide a fully HIPAA-compliant software system to your business and patients. While it may seem overwhelming at first glance, HIPAA exists to protect both patients—and your wellness or fitness business. And that’s why Vagaro is proud to extend this peace of mind to our clients, so you can pass that same security on to your patients.

Ready to learn more about HIPAA best practices or how to enable HIPAA compliance with Vagaro for your business? We’re ready to help your business get HIPAA-compliant and grow your client base!

Header Image: Mia Montemayor via Vagaro