The 5 Best HIPAA-Compliant Live Chat Messaging Apps

The 5 Best HIPAA-Compliant Live Chat Messaging Apps

Over the last decade, many industries have seen a shift in how people want to interact with businesses and service providers, and healthcare is no different. 

Whether it’s a desire to have more flexibility in an already busy schedule or to receive faster care, or due to health concerns that make in-person visits more challenging, patients are all in on telemedicine. In fact, 62% of patients prefer to consult with doctors remotely when possible, signaling that medicine’s move to digital platforms is more than just a pandemic trend.

One thing to keep in mind when adding digital services to your practice’s offerings is that any communication method you roll out needs to be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. The law requires covered entities like healthcare providers and health insurance companies to take measures that help prevent the disclosure of protected health information (PHI) without patient knowledge and consent.

Though adhering to all of the law’s requirements might seem overwhelming, many tools are available to help ensure that your patient data is kept safe as you grow your communication offerings.

Why you need a HIPAA-secure app for live chat

When patients choose a provider, factors like medical knowledge, experience, and health insurance compatibility are high on the list of considerations. However, studies show that patients also care about how quickly they can be seen, office location, and cost. 

Adding a live chat feature to your website can help meet these patient needs while also adding value to your team.

For patients, live chat provides care that is:

  • Real time: While email lends well to requesting records or checking in on a billing issue, it’s not ideal for getting help in the moment. Chat, on the other hand, is perfect for handling quick, time-sensitive communication. Patients can describe symptoms and send images to receive diagnoses and prescriptions, and for more serious issues, medical teams are able to triage cases and advise on next steps.

  • Convenient: Finding time to head into the doctor’s office or reach out by phone can be challenging. Live chat is fast and convenient — patients can chat at home, in the office, or on the go.

  • Cost-effective: Taking time away from work or other responsibilities and commuting to appointments can be expensive. Live chat and telehealth services are cheaper than office visits because they don’t cut into patient schedules, there’s no commute, and as the appointments are shorter, providers can charge less.

  • Accessible: Live chat makes connecting with a provider and their staff easier and improves the likelihood that those who need care will seek it out.

For providers and clinic staff, live chat:

  • Increases productivity: Handling simpler cases and administrative tasks through live chat messaging frees up resources, allowing your team to see more patients and focus on more complex issues.

  • Promotes collaboration: Many chat platforms aimed at medical offices offer secure internal messaging features that allow your team to increase collaboration and provide better patient care.

  • Creates an avenue for self-service: While live chat is designed for real-time communication, many chat platforms offer additional self-service features like knowledge base builders and HIPAA-compliant chatbots to help patients find answers on their own.

  • Improves patient satisfaction: Research shows that patients want remote care. In fact, 70% of younger generations prefer telehealth, and 44% of them have said that they may switch providers if the service isn’t offered.

While not all chat solutions are HIPAA compliant, many communications platforms offer extra security features to help you provide better care to patients while keeping their information safe.

The 5 best HIPAA-compliant live chat messaging apps

If you think it may be time for your healthcare organization to add live chat as a communications channel, here are five HIPAA-compliant software platforms to consider.

  1. Help Scout

  2. Rocket.Chat

  3. OhMD

  4. Twilio

  5. Trillian

1. Help Scout

Best HIPAA-compliant live chat messaging app for growing healthcare organizations.

Help Scout is a software platform that helps healthcare professionals have better conversations with their patients and communities. The majority of the platform’s offerings can be configured to be HIPAA-compliant, including patient-preferred communication channels like live chat.

Connect with patients in real time using live chat 

Touch base with patients on their schedule using Beacon, Help Scout’s live chat widget. Place a Beacon on any web page or within your mobile app to allow patients to contact your team for real-time assistance.

Providers and administrative staff can view and reply to chat messages from Help Scout’s user-friendly interface. Create saved replies to respond to common questions with just a couple of clicks, assign conversations to specific team members to ensure patients receive the best care, leave colleagues private notes to aid in collaboration, view patient information in the chat sidebar to provide contextual responses, and easily transition complex chats over to email when more time is needed to reach a resolution.

customer information in help scout's beacon

A shared inbox for collaborative communications management

Email and live chat conversations live within Help Scout’s shared inbox. When managed according to HIPAA requirements, Help Scout’s shared inbox is also considered to be HIPAA-compliant. Having all of your patient communications in one place helps create transparency within your team and prevents patient contacts from slipping through the cracks.

help scout's shared inbox

In addition to the conversation management features mentioned above, you can also tag messages to keep track of similar issues, create workflows to automate repetitive tasks, and use Help Scout’s collision detection to help prevent duplicate or conflicting information from ever reaching your patients.

Finally, monitor your efforts with Help Scout’s reporting dashboards. Keep track of chat and email volume, response time, and more.

Live chat is only the beginning

Beyond live chat and email communication, Help Scout has additional functionality that can help you increase engagement with your patients and community:

  • Messages: Keep patients up to date using Messages, a mostly code-free way to provide proactive support and share important news or announcements about your practice. 

  • Microsurveys: Collect feedback from patients using microsurveys — short, targeted, HIPAA-compliant surveys that help you gather actionable feedback in the moment.

  • Docs: Publish answers to frequently asked questions in a knowledge base to help patients find information on their own.

  • Integrations: Help Scout integrates with over 90 popular platforms and offers an open API to create a solution that suits your business’s needs.

  • Superior support: Help Scout’s customer service team provides 24/6 coverage, ensuring that you always have the tools needed to provide superior patient care.

A note about HIPAA compliance in Help Scout:

While most of Help Scout’s features (including live chat) can be configured to be HIPAA compliant, integrations between Help Scout and other platforms may not meet HIPAA standards. In addition, Help Scout’s knowledge base solution, Docs, is not considered to be compliant.

Keeping PHI safe with Help Scout

Help Scout maintains ongoing compliance with HIPAA and can process, maintain, and store protected health information. 

Some of the ways that Help Scout maintains HIPAA compliance include:

  • Business associate agreements (BAA): Help Scout will sign a BAA with your organization.

  • Data storage location: Our data is stored within the U.S. by Amazon Web Services and is protected under a signed BAA.

  • Uptime and data availability: We strive for a 99.99% uptime across all of our products.

  • Data security: All Help Scout web application communications are encrypted over 256-bit SSL (secure sockets layer).

  • User authentication: Help Scout supports two-factor authentication (2FA) access for Help Scout credentials or SSO through Google Apps. Certain plans have options for enabling authentication via any SAML-compatible Identity Provider.

  • IP restrictions: Limiting access to your Help Scout account to a predefined list of IP addresses is available with some plans.

  • Employee training: All Help Scout employees undergo annual HIPAA training. 

  • Audits: Help Scout completes regular audits and annual risk assessments to ensure continued HIPAA compliance.

For more information on HIPAA compliance and security at Help Scout, visit:

Secure patient communication at a competitive price 

Though all of the options on this list will provide you with HIPAA-compliant messaging, Help Scout’s combo of request management, proactive communication tools, and dedicated support resources make it an excellent choice for growing healthcare organizations.

HIPAA compliance is included in Help Scout’s Pro plan (starting at $65/user per month) and can also be added to the Plus plan (starting at $40/user per month) for an additional $100 per month.

To learn how Help Scout can help your practice or healthcare organization have better conversations with your patients, schedule a demo with our team today.

Price: Free trial available. Visit our pricing page for more details.

2. Rocket.Chat

Best HIPAA-compliant live chat messaging app for collaborative teams.

Product Screenshot: Rocket.Chat

Rocket.Chat is a collaboration platform that has a focus on security and compliance. The service is configurable for communication across multiple channels — including live chat — while maintaining compliance with policies such as HIPAA and GDPR.

There are a couple of different ways to provide live chat services to your patients with Rocket.Chat, each requiring a different amount of development lift. The low lift option is a chat widget similar to Help Scout’s Beacon, which can be customized to fit brand aesthetics and easily added to your website by pasting a code snippet into your site’s source code. If your team has more developer resources, you can create a more tailored patient experience by embedding the platform’s chat engine into your existing web and mobile applications.

Once chat is live for patients, your team can manage incoming messages through a shared workspace, which includes useful features like canned responses, private notes, and the ability to share files and images. When it comes to internal communications, Rocket.Chat steps up their game, offering an almost Slack-like experience — direct messaging, channels for group discussions, conversation threads, reactions, and even the ability to loop in vendors who use other platforms.

Potential customers may be drawn to Rocket.Chat for its free plan, which does include some safety features like 2FA and end-to-end encryption. However, healthcare organizations will likely need to opt for the Enterprise plan to get the features necessary to meet HIPAA compliance requirements and to get the most out of the platform.

Price: Free trial and plan available. Paid plans start at either $7/user (25-user minimum) or $35/user (five-user minimum) per month, depending on the features required.

3. OhMD

Best HIPAA-compliant live chat messaging app for organizations interested in automation.

OhMD is a healthcare messaging platform that allows patients, healthcare providers, and colleagues to stay in touch using channels and features that include live chat, text messaging, video visits, phone calls, forms, and surveys. The platform’s implementation can be made HIPAA compliant and is suitable for both small practice and hospital settings.

Healthcare organizations can use the OhMD software to add a live chat widget to their website to provide current and potential patients with an easy access point for communication with the practice. Providers or administrative staff can respond to chats from a shared inbox using features like saved replies, tags, internal notes, and conversation assignments. Once a conversation is complete, your team can send the data to your EHR system with a single click — OhMD integrates with over 85 EHRs.

Outside of live chat communication, OhMD has a lot of handy features. There is internal chat functionality that allows your team to collaborate more efficiently as well as additional patient communication features that utilize SMS messaging. Through text messaging, your practice can ask patients to fill out forms or surveys. You can even use the platform’s Autopilot feature to take over common workflows like appointment scheduling and prescription refills, freeing up your team to handle more complex conversations.

Price: Free trial available. Plans including live website chat start at $175 per month. 

4. Twilio

Best HIPAA-compliant live chat messaging app for teams with development resources.

Twilio is a technology platform that helps companies create customer communication experiences across live chat, SMS, messaging, voice, and video conferencing channels. Many of the platform’s products — including its live chat API — can be configured to be HIPAA compliant. 

Most of Twilio’s products focus on access to the platform’s APIs to build new experiences. This can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it provides tremendous freedom to create a patient or customer experience that is highly customized and personal. On the other hand, this type of project may feel overwhelming for smaller groups without technical resources.

If the idea of meddling with APIs makes you nervous, the platform does have one product, Twilio Flex, which is a bit more accessible. Flex lets you set up a contact center using pre-built themes, components, and plugins. You can add channels like live chat, messaging, or SMS and connect the platform to other software in your tech stack, like your EHR, billing software, and scheduling system, to bring all of your communications together, enabling you to provide better care. 

Flex accounts also have several hosting options (local, in your own cloud environment, or in Twilio’s existing cloud platform), allowing you more control over your data.

While Flex is a great option, those unfamiliar with contact center software may still need some developer help with implementation.

Price: Free trial available. Plan pricing is product dependent. Visit Twilio’s site for more pricing information. 

5. Trillian

Best HIPAA-compliant messaging app for in-house communications.

Product Screenshot: Trillian

Those who have been around since the early days of instant messaging likely remember Trillian as the third-party app that allowed you to manage all of your messaging accounts — AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, etc. — from a single client. In more recent years, Trillian has focused on its own messaging platform, offering packages for both individual and business use.

One of the business solutions offered by Trillian is HIPAA-compliant messaging for clinical settings. It lets doctors, nurses, receptionists, medical billing teams, and call centers communicate quickly and securely through direct and group messaging. The service allows for messaging via text, audio, and video, as well as provides options for screen and file sharing,

While this tool moves away from web chat and patient app recommendations, it’s still a worthwhile platform for medical offices to consider. Adding a real-time messaging solution to your internal team’s tech stack can help improve team collaboration and ultimately allow you to provide a better patient experience. 

For those who think Trillian sounds interesting but still require an included patient solution, the platform has announced that it will bring secure SMS functionality to its healthcare offerings soon. This will allow you to securely share sensitive information with patients without needing an additional patient portal or application.

Price: Free trial available. Plans including HIPAA compliance start at $7.99/user per month (five-user minimum). 

HIPAA live chat FAQs

Still have questions? Here are answers to common questions surrounding the implementation of HIPAA-compliant communication channels like live chat.

What makes a chat HIPAA compliant?

While not all chat services are HIPAA compliant, many can be configured to meet the law’s requirements. Here are some things to look for.

  • Robust data security: Electronic data must be encrypted, and any hosting services used by your chat provider must also provide a “high level of physical security.”

  • Reliable uptime: Patients must have reliable access to their ePHI (electronic protected health information), meaning you need to ensure that any provider you choose is dependable.

  • Data location: Data must be stored in the U.S. to be HIPAA compliant.

  • Access restrictions: Chat platforms should offer ways to protect access to PHI, such as 2FA, IP restrictions, SSL certificates, etc.

  • Business associate agreements (BAA): The chat solution you choose should be willing to sign a BAA with your company. 

Keep in mind that following the guidelines above does not in and of itself make your organization or your chat solution HIPAA compliant. Always consult with an expert when setting up new systems for your organization.

Does HIPAA apply to websites?

Yes, HIPAA compliance is required of any website where a HIPAA-covered entity (providers, insurance companies, etc.) may collect, process, store, or disseminate ePHI.

How do I make my website HIPAA-compliant?

If your practice or health organization is considered a covered entity, here are some of the steps you’ll need to take to ensure that your website is HIPAA-compliant:

  • Create a plan for how your organization will handle the management and transmission of PHI.

  • When it’s time to build your site, choose a HIPAA-compliant web host.

  • Use a SSL certificate to keep your site safe.

  • Sign BAAs with any third-party services your site may utilize, such as a live chat platform.

  • Ensure data from web forms, chat services, email, etc., is encrypted.

  • Restrict access to PHI and provide training to those who may encounter it.

Just like with the steps listed above for HIPAA-compliant chat, be sure to consult with an expert when determining if your organization is taking all of the required steps to maintain HIPAA compliance.

Moving forward

Live chat messaging is a communications channel that can provide many benefits to providers and patients alike.

If you’re ready to get started with live chat, consider booking a demo to learn how Help Scout can help you meet the evolving needs of your patients and community.

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Alexa Ahrens
Alexa Ahrens

Alexa is a Growth Marketing Specialist at Help Scout, where we make excellent customer service achievable for companies of all sizes. Connect with her on LinkedIn.