A HIPAA message -- encrypted e-mail

March 29, 2005

HIPAA, the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996," provides federal protection of patient health information. This HIPAA-related message is part of UNMC's continued effort to educate employees. Today's HIPAA message explains encrypted e-mail.

Question: What is encrypted e-mail and why is it being installed?

Answer: The Nebraska Medical Center, UMA and UNMC will be implementing an encrypted e-mail system within the campus electronic mail systems. Simply put, the system is necessary to safeguard our patients' privacy and others to whom we communicate protected health information (PHI). Encrypted e-mail is the translation of e-mail data into a secret code. To read an encrypted e-mail, you must have access to a secret key or password that enables you to translate (decrypt) it. E-mail sent BETWEEN individuals with an address of nebraskamed.com or unmc.edu will not be impacted because this e-mail does not traverse the Internet.

Regular Internet e-mail can be intercepted and read (think of it as a postcard going through the US Postal Service). Encrypted e-mail cannot be easily intercepted (think of it as a letter inside of an envelope.)

Watch for more information about implementation in April.

Additional information about the new secure e-mail system can be found at:

The Nebraska Medical Center

University of Nebraska Medical Center

If you're a manager, please ensure all of your employees are informed of the contents of these messages and how it applies to your work area. Some ways of sharing the information include discussions during staff meetings, printing and posting this message or asking your employees if they have any further questions.