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Gmail and insurance-related email: HIPAA compliant, or amateur hour?

Brian Anderson

Does having a personal (not a corporate) gmail address for business make you look cheap and unprofessional? Can you store client info on a cloud service and still be HIPAA compliant? Is it unsafe/non-compliant to send/receive any personal information via email?

These are some of the core questions being discussed in a popular new thread on the General Insurance Agents Discussion Forum, “Is gmail okay for my email related to insurance?

The original poster says he was chastised about regulations, privacy and HIPAA by a GoDaddy rep when trying to fix a problem with an email forwarding address that was not working properly. He asks the community for help regarding whether or not it is HIPAA compliant to store client info on a cloud service like Dropbox, and if not, if there is a HIPAA-compliant cloud service.

One post says gmail’s security and privacy practices are HIPAA-compliant if you sign a Business Associates Agreement. “I think this is only available on their corporate gmail. It covers gmail, g-calendar, and g-drive,” the post says. “Any web-based email needs a BAA signed to be HIPAA compliant (from what I understand).”

While several posts are responding with thoughts and advice related to the HIPAA compliance issue, other posts questioned the professionalism of using a gmail address while still another said a “professional-looking” web presence is overrated and not important to their business.

“I don’t have a web presence and I have no problems gaining clients on a weekly basis (virtually all from referrals). I have yet to have a potential client frown upon me for not having a ‘special’ email address and a web presence,” one post says.

“In all fairness you don’t know if it has hurt you or not,” came one response to the previous post. “Most people are not going say they didn’t do business with you because you didn’t seem as professional and together as the other guy… they just say ‘no thanks…’ Your business might not have suffered because of it. But that doesn’t mean a more professional email wouldn’t be beneficial.”

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