How HIPAA Compliant Is Your Medical Answering Service?

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is designed to securely protect the confidentiality of patient data. It is mandatory for not just healthcare professionals but also related service providers to undergo training on protecting patient rights and adhering to HIPAA regulations. If not, they are likely to be entangled in legal complications.

HIPAA violations can prove costly for your entity. When you hire a medical answering service, they interact directly with your stakeholders and are representing your practice. In your interest, it is necessary for you to be certain that your service provider is HIPAA compliant. Guidelines to check the same are listed for your reference:

HIPAA Certified Staff

The processes followed by the medical answering service must be HIPAA compliant and the staff employed, HIPAA certified. Only when the operators answering calls on your behalf are aware of the guidelines specified under this Act will they make it a point to adhere to them. There must also be a designated HIPAA Compliance Officer present who can oversee the training imparted and operations carried out to ensure they are compliant on all relevant aspects.

Secure Transmission of Messages

A patient’s medical history and even their personal details like name and phone number must be securely protected. This makes it crucial for all modes of communication like e-mails and even texts to be highly secure even when directly sent to intended recipients. The best way to avoid violating HIPAA rules is to password protect all such communication. All patient data has to be treated as highly sensitive and must be safeguarded from misuse.

Mandatory Mechanisms in Place

Answering companies also outsource some functions like overseeing their software, to specialists. Valid contracts must be signed with each of these vendors. The same should include confidentiality clauses and Non Disclosure Agreements. In addition, physical safeguards like authorizing accesses and restricting rights to a select few and technical safeguards which include network security, issuing unique user IDs and preset automated log offs, must be in force. Provisions to record all activity, monitor the recordings and audit reports at frequent intervals, must exist.

Adequate Disaster Recovery

Reliable contingency plans that can be resorted to in unforeseen circumstances like a major network failure, is another vital requisite. In the case of a system crash, there must be a provision to retrieve accurate patient information in its entirety. Considering the data maintained is extremely valuable, it has to be preserved. Due consideration must be given to offsite back-up and IT disaster recovery.

All professionals associated with the healthcare industry have to conform to set medical ethics. An answering company that adheres to these important aspects will best compliment your medical practice and protect you from any legal complications.

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