Calling Dr. Office – HIPAA applies to schools, universities too

If you work in healthcare, you’d have to have been living under a rock not to know about HIPAA, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Among other things, HIPAA specifies how doctors, hospitals, clinics and anyone else who is responsible for maintaining personal health records on individuals must care for that information and especially the privacy and security of the information. As it should be, protecting personally identifiable health information is a big responsibility. The federal government can wield hefty fines at organizations that fail to protect our health information. And it’s not just clinicians, healthcare organizations and insurance companies that are at risk. Any organization that handles health information must protect it including, as it turns out, schools and universities. That fact is a big reason why some of America’s best known academic centers have turned to Microsoft to protect student records that include health information.

imageSeveral major universities including Emory, Duke, and Thomas Jefferson as well as the universities of Washington and Iowa have selected Microsoft Office 365 because it complies with HIPAA. These university centers also worked with Microsoft to develop a so-called Business Associates Agreement or BAA to help them implement Office 365 in a way that is compliant with HIPAA. 

Besides offering the privacy and security attributes that are so important to institutions that maintain health records on students, Office 365 provides schools and students with the applications they need to communicate, collaborate and be productive, and at a price that makes a whole lot of sense for people who are pursuing an education. Microsoft Office 365 includes access to online versions of Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook (for calendar, contacts and mail), Publisher and Access for use on up to two devices. University users also get 27 GB of cloud storage and can access their information on other devices when they are away from their own PC. Undergraduate and graduate students can get a four-year subscription for just $79.99. That works out to about $1.67 per month. Alternatively, students who purchase software versions of Office University 2010 for PC or Office University 2011 for MAC at $100 can get access to Office University 365 for free. Office 365 is available to higher-education students, faculty and staff with verification of their academic credentials.image

Microsoft products and services are built with security in mind. Whether that means protecting the privacy of health information in your HealthVault account, or protecting information stored by schools and universities, don’t overlook how important this is whenever you are making a decision about purchasing software or subscribing to services in the cloud.

For more on why some of America’s top universities selected Microsoft Office 365, see this article published in Information Week.

Bill Crounse, MD                       Senior Director, Worldwide Health                 Microsoft

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