Dental clinics, doctor offices, hospitals, and other medical practices are obligated to protect the private, personal information of their patients. This is regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which dictates how this personal information can be stored and managed.

To manage patients’ Protected Health Information (PHI), these practices have started to adopt intuitive, automated scheduling software. These solutions let you manage patient appointments at your practice, and in some cases even empower your patients to schedule appointments themselves.

To make sure that you adhere to HIPAA guidelines, we break down everything you need to know, and then compare the best HIPAA compliant scheduling softwares.

Before we get into the best appointment scheduling softwares, we’ll discuss what HIPAA compliance is and the guidelines you’ll need to follow.

What is HIPAA Compliance + how to manage Protected Health Information(PHI)?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a US federal law that hospitals, insurance companies, and healthcare providers have to follow to protect and secure the Protected Health Information (PHI) of their patients.

By nature, PHI is extremely sensitive information, as it contains people’s personal healthcare data. Under HIPAA, all healthcare providers are required to safeguard and keep this information confidential. People required to maintain HIPAA compliance include individuals in the healthcare field such as doctors, nurses, and insurance providers and certain individuals working in non-healthcare capacities such as lawyers, accountants, and administrators.

The most important aspects of HIPAA are the privacy and security of health information, notification of breaches of medical records, and the right to obtain other copies of healthcare data. As a healthcare provider that has all HIPAA compliance requirements in place to protect patient data, patients will trust and rely on you, allowing you to grow and sustain your business.

Essential software guidelines to follow for HIPAA compliance

To be HIPAA compliant, organizations must follow HIPAA requirements and guidelines. Under the HIPAA Security Rule, any entity and business associate with access to PHI must ensure that technical, physical, and administrative safeguards are in place and followed.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule dictates how PHI can be used and disclosed by those that can access it. If a breach does occur, companies and workers are required to follow the procedure in the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule.

The HIPAA Security Rule: how to safeguard PHI data

The HIPAA Security Rule sets the standards that must be followed for safeguarding PHI that organizations create, access, process, or store. There are three parts to this HIPAA Security Rule, as covered below.

There are also two classes of safeguards: required and addressable. Required safeguards must be implemented; while addressable safeguards do not need to be implemented if it is not reasonable to implement. For addressable safeguards, companies can choose to introduce an alternative or may opt not to use a safeguard at all.

1. Technical Safeguards

The Technical Safeguards dictate the technology needed to protect ePHI. The only absolute requirement is that all ePHI (whether stored or in transit) must be encrypted to NIST standards when beyond the organization’s internal firewalled servers. This ensures that if a breach does occur, the data is unreadable and cannot be used.

Aside from this, organizations can choose whichever means they would like to perform the following under HIPAA.

Required:

  • Implement a means of access control
  • Introduce activity logs and audit controls

Addressable:

  • Introduce a mechanism to authenticate ePHI
  • Implement tools for encryption and decryption
  • Facilitate automatic log-off of PCs and devices

2. Physical Safeguards

The Physical Safeguards involve the physical access to ePHI, whether that is in-person, remotely, or through cloud interfaces. This also provides best practices for setting up workstations and mobile devices for proper compliance.

Required:

  • Policies for the use/positioning of workstations
  • Policies and procedures for mobile devices

Addressable:

  • Facility access controls must be implemented
  • Inventory of hardware

3. Administrative Safeguards

The Administrative Safeguards mesh the Privacy Rule and Security Rule of HIPAA, ensuring that someone is responsible for maintaining HIPAA compliance. It requires that a security officer and privacy officer be assigned to establish measures for protecting ePHI, while also managing compliance with these policies from employees.

To do this, responsible parties must regularly maintain HIPAA compliance using the administrative safeguards below:

Required:

  • Conducting risk assessments
  • Introducing a risk management policy
  • Developing a contingency plan
  • Restricting third-party access

Addressable:

  • Training employees to be secure
  • Testing of contingency plan
  • Reporting security incidents

The HIPAA Privacy Rule: how to use and share PHI

The HIPAA Privacy Rule, established in 2003, governs the use and disclosure of PHI without patient authorization. It also extends rights to patients about their health information, such as the right to obtain a copy of their health records and to request corrections. Organizations must respond to such requests within 30 days.

To ensure that this is followed, employees must be properly trained on how to manage and use PHI, ensure that there are steps in place to maintain the integrity of PHI, and gain written permission from patients prior to using health information for marketing, fundraising, or research purposes.

HIPAA scheduling software checklist to determine if it applies to you

We know – that was a lot! And it can still be hard to know if you have to adhere to HIPAA. To help you identify whether your organization has to follow HIPAA compliance guidelines, go through the HIPAA compliance checklist below.

  • Determine which required annual audits and assessments apply to your organization
  • Conduct required audits and assessments, analyze the results, and document any deficiencies that exist
  • Establish remediation plans, initiate these plans, and review and update annually and as needed
  • If you haven’t already, appoint a HIPAA Compliance, Privacy, and/or Security Officer
  • Make sure the HIPAA Compliance Officer conducts annual training for members and staff
  • Make sure that all HIPAA training is documented and clearly outlined in policies and procedures
  • Assess HIPAA compliance through annual reviews of Business Associates
  • Ensure that breaches are notified to HHS OCR and that review processes are put in place

Common features of HIPAA compliant scheduling software

For this post, we are focusing exclusively on HIPAA compliant scheduling software, and all of the solutions covered enable patient bookings. It’s important to note that scheduling is not the only solution necessary for medical practices that need to maintain HIPAA compliance.

You can shop around for multiple solutions, or attempt to get a comprehensive solution that has all of your practice management needs. Below, we highlight common features to look for in a HIPAA compliant scheduling software.

  • HIPAA compliance: This should go without saying, but any scheduling software you choose needs to be HIPAA compliant.
  • Online patient booking: Patients are able to book appointments themselves online, without having to talk to a representative. Statistics show that patients are more likely to book same day and next day services this way, filling up otherwise wasted time slots.
  • Internal scheduling: Your administrative team can book patients internally, but your patients are not able to book their own appointments.
  • Practice management software integration: Any great scheduling software will easily integrate with your other practice management solutions, so that you can effectively manage your practice with ease.
  • Automated reminders and notifications: Remind your team members and patients about upcoming appointments using reminders and notifications that automatically go out.
  • Customer support: Ensure the service has customer support, so that you can troubleshoot any issues you have and easily get back up and running.

When deciding on the platform for you, be sure to consider and compare the features above. You don’t want to skip on essential features that will help you acquire and retain patients!

6 HIPAA compliant softwares that let customers schedule appointments

Giving your patients the ability to schedule their own appointments will save your administrative team time and effort, while also improving the user experience for your patients. Below, we highlight the top HIPAA compliant scheduling softwares for booking appointments online.

1. NexHealth

Cost: See Pricing Page or Contact Sales Team
Best for: Guaranteed to see positive ROI in one month
Free Trial: No

NexHealth is a one-of-a-kind patient experience platform that helps patients convert. Built for doctors and dentists, NexHealth offers EHR-integrated real-time scheduling, patient communication, and digital paperwork management. Doctors can give their patients an easy end-to-end digital experience, while developers can just access the one API that will help them integrate with multiple EHR and dental systems, enabling quick product deployment.

Top features:

  • White glove onboarding, connecting you and your staff with their team of experts to launch and make their system fully functional in under one month.
  • Integration with your practice management system to improve interoperability.
  • Unlimited customer support.
  • In-app reporting and analytics to track patient volume, appointment confirmations, and other key metrics relevant to the growth of your practice.
  • Open healthcare API to allow for customization.
  • Participate in beta tests for new services and earn cash when referring colleagues to the NexHealth community.

2. Acuity Scheduling

Cost: $14 – $45/month
Best for: Clients can schedule appointments on their own
Free Trial: 7 days

Acuity Scheduling is an online assistant that works for businesses as an appointment scheduler. Businesses can manage multiple locations and employees and have all client information in one place, which is HIPAA compliant.

Top features:

  • Appointment confirmations, reminders, and follow-up emails are sent on your behalf.
  • Customize everything to match your branding.
  • Embed scheduler into your website for easy access.
  • It can integrate with 500+ apps through Zapier.
  • Upsell clients with ease using the check-out add-ons.
  • Pipedrive integration for sales/CRM.

3. Simply Book

Cost: Free – $59.90/month
Best for: Accept bookings from multiple channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps booking, and more
Free Trial: 14 days

SimplyBook.me is an online booking system for all service-based industries that allow businesses to display their availability for clients to book their next appointment and pay through their credit card without any hassle. Businesses can also set up video meetings to seamlessly execute any virtual appointments or internal team discussions that they may have.

Top features:

  • Clients can make their bookings online and receive notifications via SMS/email.
  • Both clients and Admin have their own app interface.
  • Integrations & API for Facebook, Instagram, Google My Business.
  • Offer coupons and gift cards to clients.
  • Businesses can choose from 17 customizable website templates for their business or booking widgets that they can add to their existing website.

4. 10to8

Cost: Free – $40/month
Best for: Integrations available with Zoom, Facebook Mailchimp, and over 1500 other apps
Free Trial: No

10to8 is an appointment scheduling software that helps businesses communicate with their clients efficiently, reducing no-shows and effectively managing time-consuming admin tasks. They also have access to powerful reporting that includes a live dashboard and the ability to generate custom reports to understand key metrics that help make better business decisions.

Top features:

  • Live 2-Way Calendar sync.
  • Approve appointments manually or automatically.
  • Clients can book multiple appointments at the same time.
  • Customizable calendar view.
  • Secure and easy payment processing via Stripe.
  • Customize with your own branding.
  • Free WordPress plugin.

5. Setmore

Cost: Free – $9/user/month
Best for: Book unlimited appointments on the free plan
Free Trial: No

Setmore is a free scheduling software that helps you organize your business with 24/7 automated online bookings, reminders, and payments. 

Top features:

  • Send customized and recurring notifications, emails, and SMS reminders.
  • Easy access on iOS and Android App.
  • Custom booking page with unique URL.
  • Analytics and CRM integrations.
  • Accept customer payments on Square, PayPal, and Stripe.
  • Google and Office 365 2-way sync.
  • Social media integrations allow clients to book directly from Facebook and Instagram.

6. FlexBooker

Cost: $39 – $79/month
Best for: Daily recap every morning to view all the bookings and cancellations from the last 24 hours
Free Trial: 14 days

FlexBooker is an online appointment scheduling tool that makes booking appointments and employee calendar syncing easy and efficient. With automatic reminders and customization to take complete control over the look and feel of your website, FlexBooker fully integrates with Google Calendar, Microsoft 365, Outlook, and Apple Calendar.

Top features:

  • Easy to install on your website.
  • Take online credit card payments at the same time while booking appointments or authorize the credit card for a no-show fee in case your customer doesn’t show up.
  • Client Management Metrics to keep track of critical data about employees and clients.
  • Online video meeting integrations.

5 HIPAA compliant scheduling software for internal scheduling

Patient scheduling is becoming more widespread and essential to deliver a high quality patient experience (43% of patients prefer to book their medical appointments online). Should you decide that internal scheduling functionality is right for your practice, we have a curated list of internal scheduling software.

1. Cliniko

Cost: $49 – $399/month
Best for: Connect with 32 other apps for customer feedback, bookings, exercises
Free Trial: 30 days

Cliniko is a practice management system for clinics and other health practitioners. Along with providing free online chat and email support, Cliniko also donates 2% of their subscription fee to charities that work towards making a tangible difference in people’s lives that need it.

Top features:

  • Clean and organized appointments calendar.
  • Store treatment notes and health records on custom-built templates from any device.
  • Report and track the performance of your business.
  • Send SMS messages to your clients.
  • Easily import and export your data.

2. EasyPractice

Cost: Free – £299/month
Best for: Two-factor authentication and secure messaging to keep your account 100% safe
Free Trial: No

EasyPractice is an online scheduling software specifically designed for medical practitioners and specialists that helps them manage day-to-day operations with ease. Practitioners can set up classes and events with easy sign-up forms and journals for their clients to which they can add files and photos. 

Top features:

  • SMS reminders.
  • Google Analytics.
  • Schedule video meetings.
  • Integrates with Zapier.
  • Online courses, surveys, waiting lists, and secure messaging for an additional cost.
  • 100% GDPR compliant.

3. Meshai

Cost: Free – $250/month
Best for: One-click schedule generator
Free Trial: 2 months

Meshai is an online scheduling tool for medical clinics, physician groups, and hospitals that lets everyone see that their schedules are designed to fairly reduce adoption issues and staff complaints. To learn about the features of the tool, practitioners can register for a free webinar that explains it in great detail.

Top features:

  • Scheduling templates to choose from for your practice.
  • Schedule your physicians, nurses, medical residents, and other staff’s vacation and time-off requests.
  • Calendar integrations with iCal, Outlook, and Google.
  • Conveniently access Meshai App on your iOS or Android device.
  • Schedule-dependent messaging.

4. Vagaro

Cost: $25 – $85/month
Best for: Automated live streaming to create virtual classes or one-on-one sessions to reach a global audience
Free Trial: 1 month

Vagaro is a scheduling app that allows businesses to schedule their services for clients and staff, set up reminders, and sell their products and packages. To understand their customers better and grow their practice, businesses can access the dashboard and reports to get key insights and metrics.

Top features:

  • Clients can schedule their appointment according to their convenience.
  • Get bookings from Vagaro App, Vagaro.com, Yelp, Instagram, Facebook, or on your website via Vagaro’s booking widget.
  • Customers automatically receive links to join live streams via email, text, and push notifications.
  • Create liability waivers, intake forms, and surveys from scratch or using an already existing template.
  • Manage multiple calendars on the same screen.
  • Process payments from any device by integrating Vagaro’s hardware system.

5. AppointmentPlus

Cost: $49 – $199/month
Best for: 24/7 cloud-based access to your schedule
Free Trial: No

AppointmentPlus caters specifically to medical offices and clinics with the aim to run their practice more efficiently, allowing the staff to do more than just scheduling on the phone. Having complete control over the booking system, with regular email and text reminders, patients are always kept in the loop, leading to reduced no-shows.

Top features:

  • Email appointment notifications.
  • Website and Facebook calendar integration.
  • Robust reporting to track customer metrics, product purchasing trends, and no-show rates.

3 free HIPAA compliant scheduling software for a low budget

Depending on the size and complexity of your practice, you may be able to get by with a free alternative. While these solutions will have limited functionality, they may meet your essential HIPAA compliance needs.

1. DocMeIn

Cost: Free
Best for: Integrates with your existing system by offering an API through which all your data can be kept in sync
Free Trial: No

DocMeIn is a free and easy to set-up online service for healthcare providers to schedule patient appointments. There is no limit on the number of patients, appointments, reminders, recalls, and patients, and no software to set up.

Top features:

  • Color-coded calendar.
  • Recurring appointments.
  • Set up each providers’ hours, breaks, and scheduling exceptions.
  • Patient self-service.
  • Appointment reminders.
  • Add unlimited providers to your practice account, set up services that you offer, and assign them to the providers that practice them.

2. practicesuite

Cost: Free – $49.95/month
Best for: PHI-based audit tracking
Free Trial: No

Practicesuite is an end-to-end cloud-based patient care platform that helps in connecting, collaborating, and collecting patient data. Their robust system helps build credibility among clients, prevent cyberattacks and be compliant.

Top features:

  • Multiple user collaboration.
  • Encrypted emails and secure file storage.
  • Shared tasks and to-do lists.
  • Shared calendars and events.
  • Sub-groups for teams and departments.

Top features:

  • Color-coded calendar.
  • Recurring appointments.
  • Set up each providers’ hours, breaks, and scheduling exceptions.
  • Patient self-service.
  • Appointment reminders.
  • Add unlimited providers to your practice account, set up services that you offer, and assign them to the providers that practice them.

3. Booksteam

Cost: $19.95 – $79.95/month
Best for: Offer packages and gift certificates to clients
Free Trial: 14 days

Booksteam is online scheduling software that enables you to work efficiently and focus on growing your business by automating your bookings. Clients can book their appointments with or without creating a free BookSteam account.

Top features:

  • Personalize client notifications.
  • Manage your client database.
  • Design your booking page for your brand.
  • Sync personal calendars with Booksteam to see all your calendars in one view.
  • Process credit cards online.
  • Schedule courses and workshops.
  • Online video meeting scheduling.
  • Get bookings via Facebook.

Now that you know how to adhere to HIPAA compliance standards and guidelines, you should be able to effectively maintain your patients’ personal health records. Use the checklist to determine whether you need to follow HIPAA or not, and then learn what guidelines are required.

For a solution specifically designed for doctors, dentists, and developers, check out NexHealth’s patient experience platform. It’s HIPAA compliant and offers EHR-integrated real-time online scheduling, patient communications, digital paperwork, and more so you can centralize your patient data storage and interaction.

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