HIPAA-Compliant Answering Services- Importance

Significant developments are currently taking place in the healthcare sector. Every year the healthcare sector is noticeably different from the one before it because of technological changes and constantly evolving legal and regulatory frameworks. Despite this, there is one element that is always important and strictly enforced: HIPAA compliance.

HIPAA regulations assist in safeguarding patient privacy and give medical practitioners a uniform set of rules to conduct their business. It does, however, also come with difficulties. One example is ensuring that every communication between the patient and the medical office complies with HIPAA regulations.

While it is undoubtedly possible (and required) that members of your front office personnel are familiar with HIPAA-compliant communications, doing so also restricts your business’s ability to use an outside answering service for communication. HIPAA-compliant answering services can be quite helpful in this situation.

Medical answering services are considered business partners and are subject to HIPAA rules. These stringent security and privacy requirements must be met by answering services serving hospitals, clinics, medical offices, nursing homes, and other businesses in the healthcare sector.

According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, it is morally and legally obligatory for healthcare providers, suppliers, and service providers to protect patient information. HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules specify how covered entities and business partners, such as call center operators, must safeguard PHI and ePHI while allowing the flow of information necessary to deliver high-quality medical care.

How HIPAA Affects Medical Answering Services

Reaching compliance for answering services comes at a considerable cost, and implementing the necessary adjustments takes time. According to experts, the HIPAA Privacy & Security Rules’ most expensive criteria is PHI security. These significant rules apply to medical answering services that transmit and store PHI and have significantly impacted procedural and technical advancements.

To accommodate providing PHI to medical professionals via text messages, pagers, and email, legacy answering services have to reconsider and revamp their methods for data storage and transfer. The HIPAA-HITECH-Omnibus framework no longer deems these conventional techniques to be secure.

Additionally, all entities who access PHI both externally and internally must now have access to medical answering services that meet the required standards for encryption, responsibility, and password security.

Since answering services are a part of a network of businesses that manage sensitive data, they must adhere to HIPAA regulations. These businesses, sometimes referred to as authorized entities and business associates (BA), are in charge of keeping patient privacy and PHI secure.

HIPAA compliance is also essential for protecting the practices of medical facilities and healthcare providers. They must also ensure that their outside vendors and service providers uphold the same high data security and legal compliance standards.

What does Answering Services have to do to Comply with HIPAA?

The HIPAA rules have been in effect for all medical care providers since the year 2013. BAs are subject to the same security and privacy requirements as healthcare providers.

The HIPAA rules also apply to medical answering services because they are BAs with access to patient data.

Safe Communications

Any BA trusted with patient data must have a secure computer network and system for gaining access to and sending sensitive information. Before having access to PHI, authorized users must be required to complete two-factor authentication. Only staff employees who have been given permission and through training should have access to any device or computer that could store or use PHI.

PHI must be protected with a password and encryption when communicated and received via emails, texts, voicemails, and phone conversations.

Using HIPAA-Compliant Technology

A clear example of a HIPAA breach is sending a patient routine SMS messages containing PHI from your phone. When processing this kind of data, BAs—including answering services—must use electronic devices and communication platforms with encryption and password security. These security precautions must also be in place for doctors and other medical personnel to use while speaking with and about patients.

Information Recording and Storage Security

PHI must be protected at all times, including when at rest. Databases, physical servers, and cloud storage must have cybersecurity safeguards for sensitive data and call recordings. Access must also be restricted to locations where sensitive data is accessed and stored using physical security measures.

Call Center HIPAA Compliance Training

A medical answering service’s call agents are required to have complete training in adhering to security policies and procedures pertaining to HIPAA compliance. This involves training in cybersecurity awareness and knowing the necessary reporting procedures and backup plans in the event of a data breach.

Continuous HIPAA Compliance Monitoring

To ensure that security and privacy precautions are successful, medical answering service providers should continue monitoring contact center operations and updating policies. The organization may designate a HIPAA compliance officer who oversees this task. The process of compliance is ongoing.

Choose A Medical Answering Service With A Track Record Of HIPAA Compliance.

Your medical organization’s resilience hinges on using an answering service that complies with HIPAA regulations. The HIPAA compliant answering services providers must emphasize compliance assurance and ensure effective service to their medical clients. 

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