Is Your Medical Answering Service HIPAA Compliant?
When it comes to ensuring that sensitive patient health information is protected, explore what to expect from a HIPAA compliant medical answering service. Handling patient information can get tricky. And the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is something you can’t overlook.
If you are not HIPAA compliant, it can cost your business fines up to $1.5 million for noncompliance. We know, it sounds scary! But, do not let that scare you away from using a medical answering service to take care of patients calling your practice.
A medical answering service has many benefits for healthcare businesses like yours. Are you sure your current medical answering service is HIPAA compliant or can provide a service that meets these criteria? Read on to learn more about protecting yourself and your patients with the right answering service.
What Is a HIPAA Compliant Medical Answering Service?
A HIPAA compliant medical answering service has a vetting process. They are verified to follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
This Act is in place to ensure the security of patient data and protect patient privacy. HIPAA-compliant medical answering services have security protocols in place. These protocols make sure they are not violating HIPAA regulations.
Why Is Being HIPAA Compliant Important for Medical Answering Services?
HIPAA compliance ensures that your patient’s data is not accessed or used without their knowledge. If there is a data breach, the HIPAA rules and regulations will help determine where the breach came from. It will help you contain the damage.
Being HIPAA compliant also creates greater trust between your company and your patients. Your patients will know that their information is not misused or put in danger. If you are not HIPAA compliant, patients may hesitate to provide their information to you out of fear of mishandling.
How Does a Medical Answering Service Become HIPAA Compliant?
To become HIPAA compliant, a medical answering service must undergo a thorough review from an auditing company. The auditing company will look at the practices and procedures of the medical answering service. They will make sure that they are upholding HIPAA standards.
The auditing company has training and knowledge about what HIPAA requires. They will likely follow a specific checklist to ensure that each part of the medical answering service is compliant. They may also perform a sample audit to ensure their findings are reliable.
Which Comes First, Being HIPAA Compliant or Having a Medical Answering Service?
A medical answering service comes first. Before you can become HIPAA compliant, you must have a medical answering service in place. A medical answering service can help you save time and resources while taking the pressure off of your staff.
They will be able to manage incoming calls and messages while taking care of your callers with the utmost respect and discretion. It will help you avoid missing phone calls for your practice after closing hours or when unable to answer the phone due to a high volume of calls.
Important Elements of Being HIPAA Compliant
There are vital criteria to follow for HIPAA compliance. And, your answering service must follow these touch-points to keep you in good standing.
Patient identifiers include names, addresses, and other identifying information. This information must be confidential to protect the privacy of the patient.
Your medical answering service should be able to keep patient information private at all times. They should not share information with anyone outside of your healthcare team unless it is necessary to provide care for the patient.
A medical answering service should be able to secure any personal and medical information about patients in their computer systems. Also, in any other systems used to manage patients. They should also safeguard any paper documentation related to patients.
All service providers in the medical industry must adhere to the same HIPAA regulations as healthcare providers. This is according to a 2013 update to HIPAA. As a result, messages taken by a call center have required protection as if they were being kept and sent by the medical practice itself.
This is whether it is being transferred, in a database, or emailed. It does not matter how the information gets accessed. Whether a mobile device, desktop, or PC, it must follow regulations.
What to Look For in a Medical Answering Service
There are certain things you need from your medical answering service. Meeting these requirements will ensure your office is HIPPA compliant, as well as serve the needs of your patients.
Your medical answering service should have the experience and expertise to handle all types of calls in the best way possible. They should have the knowledge and ability to answer any question that might arise.
As we discussed earlier, your medical answering service should be HIPAA compliant. This will ensure patient privacy and security at all times.
Ease of Use
If your medical answering service is not easy to use, your staff may be less likely to use it. This could lead to a breakdown in communication and missed calls. After all, your staff members may not have the training necessary to use a complex medical answering service.
Your staff members should feel comfortable using a medical answering service. They should know that patient information is safe, secure, and kept private and confidential.
What Impact Has HIPAA Had on Medical Answering Services?
The HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules’ most costly set of criteria, according to experts, is PHI security. Reaching compliance for answering services comes at a considerable cost. And adopting the necessary adjustments takes time.
To provide PHI to medical professionals via text messages and email, traditional answering services had to change their methods for data storage and transfer. The HIPAA-HITECH-Omnibus framework no longer finds these conventional methods to be secure. Additionally, anyone accessing PHI both externally and internally must now have access to medical answering services that meet the required standards for accountability, encryption, 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 are in charge of keeping patient privacy and PHI secure.
Being HIPAA compliant is also essential for protecting the practices of medical facilities and healthcare providers. They must also make sure that their outside vendors and service providers have the same high standards of data security and legal compliance.
What Is PHI?
When a HIPAA-covered entity provides healthcare services, it may create, collect, transmit, or keep identifiable data about a person’s health status. This information is called protected health information or PHI. PHI includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Last names
- Social security numbers
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Medical device identification numbers
- Health insurance information
- Headshot images
Can a Medical Answering Service Schedule Appointments?
Yes! Many medical answering services can not only schedule appointments but also send appointment reminders and follow-up with patients after their appointments. They can also record the information of the callers and fax or email the information to the appropriate person.
This will take the stress off of your staff and allow them to take better care of their patients. If you have a busy medical practice, you know that one of the best ways to increase revenue is by increasing appointment frequency. And the only way to do that is by scheduling more appointments.
Scheduling appointments manually might work well in a smaller office. But, in a larger practice, it can become an administrative nightmare. A medical answering service that schedules appointments will take the pressure off of your staff.
This allows you and your staff to focus on patient care. With a medical answering service that schedules appointments, you’ll be able to schedule more patients each day. You’ll also be able to serve your patients better since your staff will be free to focus on patient care rather than scheduling appointments.
Better Manage Your Patient Communications
A medical answering service is a great tool for managing patient communications. It will also ensure HIPAA compliance.
A medical answering service provides your team with the tools and support they need to manage communications and schedule appointments. It will allow your staff to focus on patient care, provide better service, and enable you to expand your practice.
Medical Call Service can help you locate trustworthy medical answering service options. Contact us or check out our Blog section for helpful information about medical answering services and how they will help you.