Do you consider your medical answering service a business associate? The Office of Health and Human Services (HHS) does, which is why answering services (along with billing services, vendors of medical records and even physicians’ attorneys) are classified as business associates as of the January 2013 HIPAA omnibus rule, which has been described by Director Leon Rodriguez as the most sweeping changes to the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules since they were first implemented.”
As Physicians Practice notes, the omnibus rule imposes additional responsibilities on physicians for the missteps of their BA contractors. Doctors and dentists are expected to practice reasonable diligence” in selecting and monitoring the actions of the BAs they hire.
Do not take chances!
Answering services both live and digital abound, but that doesn’t mean they’re all HIPAA-trained and -compliant. The penalties for violating patient privacy, even inadvertently, can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars imposed on your practice, not to mention the damage incurred to your professional reputation.
Before you accept any medical answering service as your business associate, ensure that every human member of the team completes ongoing HIPAA training, and that they have signed a legally binding confidentiality agreement.
As well, ensure that every piece of medical answering service technology ensures privacy via passwords, encryption and other functionality.
The diligence you practice today will pay off in a better relationship with your medical answering service, and more peace of mind for you and your patients.