Common Online Tracking Technology that Could Lead to a HIPAA Violation

Common online tracking technology that could lead to a HIPAA violation should be at the top of all healthcare providers to “know” list.

I probably sound like a broken record by now, however, this is a VERY important topic! Many states are implementing their own set of privacy rules and using online tracking is dangerous in healthcare.

Here is a refresher on what is online tracking technology. Tracking technology collects data from website visitors and many times, follows that visitor around the internet. They serve an important purpose for the website owner. It can give them useful information about what a visitor is looking for, how long they stay on a page, and where they go after they leave your site. In the business world, that sounds harmless. Marketers are just trying to make websites more appealing and increase revenue. In the healthcare field, that can be considered a HIPAA violation. Most medical practices do not even know these trackers on their website. It is extremely important to audit your website and make sure the company you utilize for maintaining your website, marketing, and hosting understands HIPAA.

There are dozens of trackers, but we will cover the most common that we have encountered:


Google Analytics

Google Ads

Google Maps







The most common of all trackers is Google. They have a few different “versions”, like Google Analytics, Google Ads, and Google Maps. You need to understand how this works because they all can lead to problems because these trackers are not HIPAA compliant. Google Analytics collects personal identifiers about your website visitors by default. Google ads follow visitors around the internet. If you find “doubleclick” in any part of a URL, that is also related to Google ads! There are others, but this is the most common marketers use to track sales conversions. Google maps, of course tracks where the visitor is located to take them to your location. This could be a violation if this is located on the same page as a scheduler or portal. You may be in the clear if there isn’t any other health information located on that page. Caution should be used when using Google maps. Many practices simply write out directions from common intersections or nearby towns.

Please note that even if the individual that visits your website is NOT a patient, the OCR considers them as a potential patient and may become a patient at some point in the future, and therefore their data could be considered PHI. The OCR and the FTC have specifically stated that Google Analytics and Google Ads can cause HIPAA violations. You will need to remove the information that is collected BEFORE it is shared with Google, or you must utilize a third-party to prevent Google from having access.

Hotjar is a Google competitor and states they are easier to use. They offer two types of analytic tools. Heatmaps and session recordings. They offer a “free” version, but remember when a service is free, you are usually the item for sale. Although they promote that they do not collect IP addresses and emails, it is unclear if they collect any other personal data. They advise new users to login into their Google account to get started, so that is a red flag for us.  

HubSpot is popular because it is a CRM that is linked to your website. They state they have robust security in place, but they will not sign a BA agreement. Therefore, they are not HIPAA compliant. Their terms of service state that healthcare entities should NOT use HubSpot. We have read that it can be made HIPAA compliant, but this would still put you on notice with the OCR and FTC.

Since Google owns YouTube, this is another platform that sends out alarm bells. Many practices use video on their website that is hosted on YouTube. This could contain PHI and then YouTube would have access to personal identifiers. Unfortunately, this also means you are sharing PHI with Google. Again, this is a HIPAA violation. You may be able to have the patient sign an authorization that details what information is going to be shared and explain, even if they decide later, they want it removed, the original information may be retained online indefinitely. This is a slippery slope though.

Speaking of videos, this brings me to Vimeo. This is another video hosting platform. They have several “versions”, so just be aware of any URL that has Vimeo in it. Keep in mind these embedded videos collect user information, same as YouTube and shared with Vimeo. The same precautions must be applied.

If you must use videos, it is recommended to find an alternative hosting platform that will sign a BA agreement. I know this could be a long process, but you need to be sure patient data is not being shared!

Facebook is another one we have seen a lot on medical websites. They are another entity known to share information across multiple platforms. Meta, who is the parent company of Facebook, uses a Pixel as their tracking device. The “Meta Pixel” is a small code that is used to track information across Facebook and Instagram, and any other systems they choose. Have you ever been on one platform, only to see Ads on another about something you watched or read? Meta pixels track visitor actions, and this helps put ads in front of similar visitors to improve advertising conversions. The OCR and FTC have also named Meta/Facebook as being non-compliant.

LinkedIn has been known to be a professional platform. Many healthcare providers have chosen to have a presence on LinkedIn over Facebook. They too use trackers; this one is called the “Insight Tag”. They have several different URLS, but they all use trackers. This tracker has the ability to follow LinkedIn users on your website and monitor what pages are viewed and if any actions are taken. Originally, this was intended for visitors looking for a job. If this is placed properly, and no health information is located on that page, this is a low risk of a violation. Make sure this tracker is not located on your entire website. This tracker works like the rest of social media trackers and puts you at risk of violations if not installed properly.

TheTradeDesk tracker is difficult to spot since some of their URLS do not use this name. Watch for adsrvr in the URL. They call their tracker the “Universal Pixel” since it allows advertisers to target users on digital platforms, streaming devices, and podcasts. This platform collects a lot of data from your website! This includes demographics, browsing history, and even conversion stats. This all can lead to PHI being shared with them. It is not recommended to use this platform if you are a healthcare provider since they can load other ad pixels randomly on your website. This can put your practice at even more of a HIPAA violation.

None of these platforms will sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). I have heard of a company that can help with all of this, but they are not affordable for many providers. If you would like information about them, please contact us. I will continue to search for alternatives so you can still market your practice without fear of HIPAA violations. Until then, we recommend removing all trackers.

Let us know if you would like us to check your website. Feel free to share this information with your colleagues. We want to help as many practices as we can since the fines can be devastating. If you need assistance with HIPAA Compliance, check out our HIPAA Keeper. It’s an online compliance system that has everything you need to get compliant and stay compliant! Best of all you will have a HIPAA security analyst to guide you every step of the way!

For more information or to speak to someone about HIPAA Compliance call us at 877.659-2467 or use the contact us form.

“Simplifying HIPAA through Automation, Education, and Support”

What are common HIPAA violations and how to avoid them?

When the providers and upper management understand the ramifications of violations, then the rest of the staff typically will follow the examples that are set in place. Because HIPAA Compliance starts at the top!

Violations happen when someone makes a mistake or is simply not thinking. HIPAA needs to be on the forefront of everyone who encounters patient information. Treat this information as if it were your own! HIPAA does not have to be difficult; it only takes a few precautionary measures to stay compliant.

Here are some helpful reminders:

  1. Always speak in hushed tones. The person you are talking to may not be the one that will complain. Others may think if they can hear what you are saying to another patient, someone else will hear what you are saying to them.
  2. When a patient makes a request, always ask this to be in writing. Remember there is a time limit on most requests, and you must answer within the time allotted. If a patient asks for a copy of their medical records, you have 30 days to answer the request, you may extend 30 days, but it must be explained to the patient why, and a date when they will be available must be determined.
  3. With the new information blocking rules, patients now have the right to ask for their information in the format of their choice. This means if they want to download to an app or share with a third party, you are required to do so. If you do not have the technology in place to honor their request, advise the patient you are checking into this, and never tell them “no” you can’t honor their request. That may be considered information blocking.
  4. Before emailing or faxing patient information, verify the number/address, and before you click send, verify AGAIN! If you are attaching documents, be sure the document you are sending is the correct information for that patient. If you are emailing protected health information (PHI), encryption should be utilized. The only time this is not required is if the patient has been informed that this is not a secure method of transmission, and they authorize you to send it anyway. Be sure to keep that email as your authorization.
  5. Train your staff to verify that business associate agreements are in place before releasing any paper, digital, or electronic PHI. This can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines should they mishandle PHI.
  6. Educate your staff that looking into medical records that they do not have a need to do so, is grounds for termination. This includes family members, friends, neighbors, and celebrities. The monitoring of audit logs is a required standard under the security rule. If you are not reviewing your logs, then it is highly recommended to utilize an audit log monitoring company.
  7. Remind staff that work computers are for business purposes only. It is so easy to introduce malware and viruses from the internet. Also, remind them NEVER click on links in emails unless you are expecting the email.

These are just a few items to keep in mind. Be sure to train your staff on privacy and security annually and send out reminders. HIPAA is not just a once-a-year commitment, it is every day! Stay safe out there!

To find out more about how our online HIPAA Keeper™ can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance click here:

Or to schedule a demo click the contact us tab and scroll down.

“Simplifying HIPAA through Automation, Education, and Support”

HIPAA Security Rule requirements, Part I

It is hard to believe we are in 2021, but I am sure you are like the rest of us and glad to see 2020 in the rear-view mirror.

As we move into this new year, we need to look ahead and learn from what has happened in the past. Last month we informed you about many HIPAA violations that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) had investigated. Most of these violations could have been prevented. In fact, I was talking with a colleague that owns an audit log monitoring system and he informed me that during the pandemic they saw a 90% increase in snooping into patient records of the same last name. Fortunately for his clients, this was immediately stopped, and the employee(s) were sanctioned. This made me want to remind you of a few requirements under HIPAA.


  • 164.308(a)(1)(ii)(c) Sanction Policy – is a “required” standard under the HIPAA Security Rule. Employers are required by law to apply sanctions against employees who violate HIPAA, otherwise the employer could be fined.


  • 164.308(a)(1)(ii)(d) Information System Activity Review – is another required standard. Which requires procedures to regularly review records of information system activity, such as audit logs, access reports, and security incident tracking reports. A security incident can be best described as the attempted or successful unauthorized access, use, disclosure, modification, or destruction of information or interference with system operations in an information system.


  • 164.312(b) Audit Controls – is yet another required standard that states you must implement hardware, software, and/or procedural mechanisms that record and examine activity in information systems that contain or use electronic protected health information (ePHI). This standard goes hand in hand with Information System Activity Review.


What does this mean to you?

First, you must understand what is considered “normal” usage within your software/hardware that contains ePHI. Then you must monitor your systems for abnormal behavior. This is a HUGE time-consuming task and unless you are monitoring every employee, 24/7 you may miss something. We highly recommend utilizing a third party to do this for you. The company we work with has interfaces with over 60 EHRs and is fully automated. If they do not have an interface, they will create one, or show you how to upload the logs in a matter of minutes instead of hours. No more looking over lengthy audit log reports. You simply receive an alert when there is abnormal activity. Best of all, this protects your patient data and your practice from fines and penalties. If you would like to learn more about this service, use the contact us page.


If you need assistance with HIPAA Risk Management or guidance with your HIPAA Compliance, contact us at 877.659.2467 or complete the contact us form.

OCR enforces potential HIPAA violations for failure to remove a terminated employee’s access to Protected Health Information (PHI)

When an employee is terminated, it is necessary to remove access to protected health information (PHI) immediately. It is just as important for employees not to share their log-in credentials with anyone. The City of New Haven, Connecticut found out the hard way. In January 2017 the New Haven Health Department filed a breach report stating that a terminated employee may have accessed a file on a New Haven computer that contained PHI (protected health information) of 498 individuals. During the OCR’s investigation they discovered the former employee had returned to the health department eight days after being terminated and logged into her old computer and downloaded patient information to a USB drive. They also uncovered that the former employee had shared her user credentials with an intern, who continued to use these credentials to access PHI.

As we have mentioned before, when you are under investigation, they review all of your compliance efforts and not just the incident that provoked the investigation. During this investigation, the OCR determined they failed to conduct a system wide risk analysis and failed to implement access controls and termination procedures.

“Medical providers need to know who in their organization can access patient data at all times. When someone’s employment ends, so must their access to patient records,” said OCR Director Roger Severino.

This mistake cost the City of New Haven $202, 400 and they must implement a robust corrective action plan that includes two years of monitoring.

To read more about this click here:

HIPAA Fines assessed to small practices

We find this difficult to talk about especially during these trying times. However, we feel it is important for all practices to know that HIPAA violations and fines have not disappeared during this pandemic.

Investigations take a long time and many practices think since they have not heard of small practices being fined that they are immune. Unfortunately, that is not true. Fines are smaller, but even the “small” fines hurt small practices. Could you afford $25K or $50K in fines?

The latest fine of $25K for ongoing HIPAA violations could have been more but the statute of limitations is 6 years. It was reported that they had failed to implement security rule policies and procedures, failed to provide their employees with security awareness and training, and they failed to conduct a thorough assessment of potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the ePHI they held.

To read the full resolution agreement click here:

We understand that after you conduct the HIPAA risk analysis, the hard work begins. Implementing your HIPAA policies and procedures and documenting your risk management plan are difficult and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete this task. This is a MUST!

To find out more about how our automated HIPAA compliance platform can help your organization click here:

Or to schedule a demo click the contact us tab and scroll down.

“Simplifying HIPAA through Automation, Education, and Support”

Have you “Googled” yourself lately?


By Aris Medical Solutions


Modern technology is both amazing and scary! Do you know what is being said about you or your organization? In today’s world we must keep up with what is being said on the World Wide Web (WWW) to make sure what the world sees and reads is not Fake News! It also helps you to uncover any broken links to your website that may frustrate potential new patients from actually finding you.

It is a proven fact that before a person buys nearly anything, they “Google” it. This includes finding services as well as looking for a new physician. Do you want to increase your patient visits? Are you being found? Is the information that is out there correct? We suggest searching for your name, practice name, address, and phone numbers to see what is listed. Also check the websites that rate physicians.

Do you have any social media sites? Did you know that someone else can create one for you? These are called “unofficial” sites in Facebook. Patients could be checking in and writing negative comments about your practice and you may not even know about it. That is why it is so important to keep an watchful eye! However, be very careful how you respond. Patients have the right to tell the world about themselves but healthcare providers do not!

Before you venture into any marketing campaigns, make sure you are not violating any privacy laws. If you decide to hire a marketing company or reputation management service; insist on a company that is well versed in the medical arena. Special HIPAA regulations are required in marketing and we have heard some practices being charged with HIPAA violations due to their service provider. Also, remember to check your state laws as well!

For more information on how Aris Medical Solutions can help your organization with HIPAA Compliance and Protecting your Practice call 877.659.2467 or click here to contact us.

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