Importance of Email Encryption

HIPAA's Security Rule advises that electronic protected health information (ePHI) that is transmitted over an electronic communications network should be protected against unauthorized access.  The way to do this is to encrypt the communication.


This requirement is also part of SSCHC's HIPAA Security Policies.

What is encryption?


Encryption is the conversion of data into a form that cannot be read without the decryption key or a password. 

This allows you to send private information, such as ePHI, by email and ensure that the information can only be viewed by the individual who it is meant for.  

What to encrypt

In order to remain HIPAA-compliant, any email that contains ePHI must be encrypted prior to being sent.

How to encrypt

Encrypting emails

When using Microsoft Outlook, encrypting emails is very easy.  In the subject line simply type "encrypt:" and the contents of the email will be encrypted.  The receiver will then have to put in a password to open the email.

Opening an Encrypted Email

How to open a received encrypted email

When you receive an email that has been encrypted, open the attachment.  

You will then be prompted to open or save the file.  Click open.  You will then be required to sign into your Microsoft account which is your work email account.  

After you sign in, you will be able to view the encrypted email.

Additional Tips for Email Security

Do not put any identifying information in the subject line

It is important to keep subject lines informative, yet brief.  Make sure that you are not providing any identifying information in the subject line such as:

  • Name
  • Patient number
  • Social Security Number

Additionally, try to keep the amount of identifying information in the body of the email to a minimum also.  

Knowledge Evaluation

What information needs to be encrypted?

  • Any email that you send.
  • None of the emails that you send.
  • Emails that contain PHI.

How do you encrypt an email using Microsoft Outlook?

  • To encrypt an email using Microsoft Outlook, you must type "encrypt:" into the subject line.
  • To encrypt an email using Microsoft Outlook, you must type "encrypt:" into the "TO" field.