Password Protect to Keep Patients’ Protected Health Information (PHI) Safe

June 16, 2014

Password protecting a Word or Excel document and attaching it to an email is more secure than adding PHI to the body of the email.

PHI is any information about health status, health care, or payment for health care that can be linked to a specific individual.

PHI consists of:

a. Names b. Street address, city, county, precinct, zip code c. All elements of dates (except year) for dates directly related to an individual, including birth date, admission date, discharge date, date of death; and all ages over 89 and all elements of dates (including year) indicative of such age, except that such ages and elements may be aggregated into a single category of age 90 or older d. Phone numbers e. Fax numbers f. E-mail addresses g. Social Security numbers h. Medical record numbers i. Health plan beneficiary numbers j. Account numbers k. Certificate/license numbers l. Vehicle identifiers and serial numbers, including license plate numbers m. Device identifiers and serial numbers n. Web Universal Resource Locators (URLs) o. Internet Protocol (IP) address numbers p. Biometric identifiers, including finger and voice prints q. Full face photographic images and any comparable images r. Any other unique identifying number, characteristic, or code (note this does not mean the unique code assigned by the investigator to code the data) s. Genetic information such as family history and test results

When sending PHI in an email, please:

  • Password protect all documents containing PHI
  • Do not include any PHI in the subject line of the email
  • Contact the intended recipient with the password to the secure document.
  • Do not send the password in an email with the protected document.

For instructions on how to password protect a Word document or Excel workbook, visit the Microsoft Office Support website. You can search “password protect a document” using the version of Microsoft Office you have in the search.