In the late 1990s, the United States government passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to protect the privacy of healthcare patients. Organizations that handle sensitive patient information must have communication systems that are fully compliant, making it vital to have a HIPAA-compliant phone system.
If your business falls under the scope of HIPAA regulations, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of what you need to do and how you can get it done. This helps protect your business from compliance failures that could permanently damage your business’s financial security and reputation.
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Being HIPAA Compliant: Why It Matters
The need for HIPAA compliance ultimately comes down to standardizing and improving the security of patient information. Because the information contained in a medical record is especially personal and sensitive, it is critical that it is protected. These details may include a patient’s:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Social Security number
- Email address
- Biometric identifiers
- Health insurance number
- Medical record number
This data is referred to as protected health information (PHI). The definition of PHI is somewhat broad, but in general, any information that can be used for personal identification is protected.
It’s important to recognize that HIPAA compliance is not limited to medical offices and hospitals. In addition to healthcare and health insurance providers, a wide range of organizations fall under HIPAA. Keep in mind that any vendor that stores or processes PHI is required to comply. These include:
- Billing companies
- Medical transcription services
- Shredding services
- Email hosting services
- Faxing companies
- IT providers
If your business falls on this list or is in another industry that processes, stores, or transports PHI, you most likely need to comply with HIPAA. Although it may seem like a burden, there are several important reasons to prioritize compliance.
Respect & Protection for Patients
Privacy is a fundamental right, which means that medical records should only be released or transferred with a patient’s approval, and they should never be accessible to unauthorized parties. It is the responsibility of every business that handles PHI to respect patients’ rights by upholding HIPAA standards. If the information from a medical record falls into the wrong hands, it can have disastrous results, including fraud and identity theft.
A business that does not respect a patient’s right to privacy is unlikely to maintain a positive reputation. If a business experiences a data breach or fails to comply with regulations like HIPAA, customers will leave en masse. As a result, your current customer base will shrink, and you will struggle to find new clients in the future.
Finally, HIPAA compliance is a matter of financial self-preservation. A violation can result in expensive fines and lawsuits that can be especially damaging for smaller businesses.
One of the most significant HIPAA violations of recent years was by Advocate Health Care. Due to the company’s failed compliance, the information of millions of
patients was exposed. After a lengthy investigation, Advocate Health Care ultimately agreed to a settlement amount of $5.55 million. While this is an extreme example, it is an excellent demonstration of how financially devastating a HIPAA violation can be.
How To Know If Your Phone System Is HIPAA Compliant
Phone systems are among the issues covered by the Privacy and Security Rules under HIPAA. The risk with phone systems is not necessarily the information revealed in an actual phone conversation, but rather the technology that is used in conjunction with the call:
- Caller ID
- Call recordings
- SMS (text messages)
Many modern businesses have a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system, in which the phone line is delivered using an internet connection. Typical VoIP services also include voicemail, fax, videoconference, and voice recording features. This brings with it additional concerns about HIPAA compliance. If you are using a VoIP or other phone system, make sure that it includes specific features:
- Authentication to ensure that only authorized users can access PHI
- Encryption of patient data when it is transmitted or shared
- The ability to record all call data, including metadata and administrative functions
- A signed Business Associate Agreement (BAA), which acts as a contract between the company and HIPAA
If your business fails to meet even one of these requirements, you have placed yourself at risk of a HIPAA violation and all of the consequences that come with it.
Our Top Choices To Be Sure You’re HIPAA Compliant
There are high-quality VoIP services available to help ensure you are always compliant with HIPAA. Which service you choose for your business will depend largely on your budget, how many users you have, and which you feel best meets the needs of your clients.
Dialpad offers standard, pro, and enterprise packages starting at $15 per user, per month. They offer features including unlimited calls, encryption, and call recording. In terms of compliance, Dialpad has authentication and authorization processes to keep patient information secure. If Dialpad seems like it might be a good fit, you can test it with their 14-day free trial.
In addition to their more standard features like unlimited calls, call recording, and visual voicemail, Vonage also specializes in HIPAA-compliant texting and video. Their packages are in three tiers with prices ranging from $19.99 to $39.99 per line, per month. However, the least expensive package is only available for use on mobile phones.
Zoom has become a household name as a way to connect coworkers, students, and even families. They also offer a specific service called Zoom Phone for Healthcare, which includes call recording, call queues, and caller ID. The pricing for Zoom Phone is slightly more complicated than some other providers:
- The Pay As You Go package is $120 per user, per year and is metered.
- Unlimited Regional Calling is $180 per user, per year and includes unlimited calling within the United States and Canada.
- Pro Global Select is $240 per user, per year and offers businesses unlimited global communication.
As the name suggests, Phone.com offers HIPAA-compliant phone and video services for healthcare providers. One of their distinct features is the automatic text responder. Patients often do not realize that HIPAA-compliant text messaging is required and thus include their PHI when contacting a medical provider or other business using SMS. When necessary, the text responder notifies patients that they should choose another form of communication for sensitive information.
Package options from Phone.com start at $11.99 per user, per month for the basic plan. The plus and pro plans include enhanced features like unlimited minutes and conversational text messaging and cost $15.99 and $23.99, respectively.
Nextiva’s approach to HIPAA compliance includes automatically disabling or removing certain features that could lead to accidental compliance violations. For example, Nextiva services for healthcare will automatically disable voicemail transcription and fax to email, both of which can present a danger when it comes to HIPAA.
All of Nextiva’s plans, essential, professional, and enterprise, include unlimited voice and video calling, voicemail, and internet fax services. The essential plan costs $18.95 per user, per month.
Compliance in all forms is essential to the long-term success of a business. The services provided by Aloware are an excellent example as they are compliant with FTC and FCC rulings. These regulations protect users from fraud and unfair business practices.
Ease Your Mind With Aloware
Whether your business is directly engaged in healthcare or acts as a healthcare vendor, compliance with laws and regulations, including HIPAA, is essential to your long-term success. By partnering with a high-quality, HIPAA secure service, you can protect both your business and your clients.
Aloware provides peace of mind with their HIPAA-compliant phone system, so contact them today to ensure that your company is following the appropriate guidelines.