The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) has been with us for over two decades. The ramifications of this act are wide-ranging and ever evolving.
HIPAA also impacts medical answering services and call centers that handle healthcare accounts. Here’s why this matters:
A Requirement: Of specific interest with HIPAA is protected health information (PHI). One of HIPAA’s many requirements stipulates that identifiable, patient health information be kept private, that it be protected from those who shouldn’t have access to it.
For the medical answering service, this means keeping PHI safe both within call center walls and as it’s being communicated with its medical clients. This is an especially important concern when sending patient information to the mobile devices of medical practitioners. Leading medical answering services maintain HIPAA-compliance by using secure messaging, which protects PHI.
By employing a secure messaging platform, answering services can ensure HIPAA-compliance when sending information to their clients’ smartphones. Though there may be other acceptable ways to accomplish this, alternatives are often cumbersome, have limited functionality, and may not be user-friendly. Secure messaging is a leading solution to meet the regulatory requirements of HIPAA, without unduly inconveniencing healthcare providers.
What many healthcare organizations don’t realize is that if they use an answering service that doesn’t meet HIPAA expectations, they are liable for the answering service’s shortcoming. Using a HIPAA-compliant answering service is a requirement every healthcare provider should insist upon.
A Show of Respect: Aside from a practical matter that HIPAA-compliance is a mandatory requirement, is the sensible realization that protecting individuals’ private healthcare information is the ethical thing to do.
Taking steps to ensure that personal healthcare data is safe and secure shows respect to both patients and their healthcare providers. Just as patients trust their health practitioners to deliver excellent care, they also trust that these same providers will take every needed step to keep personal healthcare information private and secure. In doing so, the medical practice and their answering service exhibit a strong show of respect for patients and the trust these patients place in them.
A Sign of Excellence: Although HIPAA-compliant medical answering services are a requirement, not all answering services take the necessary steps. Those that do set themselves apart from those who don’t. Complying with HIPAA regulations—by offering secure messaging and other data protection protocols—demonstrates a medical answering service is an industry leader. HIPAA-compliance portends excellence. And when it comes to the health and well-being of your patients, excellence is key.
HIPAA-compliance is more than just a good idea or a best practice. It is a regulatory requirement, with stiff fines for noncompliance. This means that a HIPAA failure carries both a legal and financial risk to the healthcare provider.
In addition to this, HIPAA-compliance is a step that shows respect to patients and their personal information. Beyond that, HIPAA-compliance gives an indication of excellence within the medical answering service, which reflects positively on the healthcare provider.
With so much at stake, make sure your medical answering service is HIPAA-compliant.
Learn how medical answering service from MedConnectUSA can help your clinic or practice, and get a free quote to find out just how affordable their critical communication services are. Peter DeHaan is a freelance writer and call center authority.