Your relationship with your patients hinges on one key value: trust. But in order to protect that trust you have to take precautions to make sure that all patient communications are confidential, secure, and protected. That’s where a HIPAA compliant answering service comes into the picture. Researching HIPAA and answering services? We’ve compiled a few commonly asked questions to help make your search easier.
What is a HIPAA compliant virtual receptionist?
A HIPAA compliant virtual receptionist is an answering service that complies with the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. HIPAA was signed into law in 1996 to:
- Reduce health care fraud
- Mandate industry-wide standards for health care data on electronic billing and other forms
- Empower employees to transfer and continue health insurance under a variety of situations
- Protect the confidentiality of patients and their protected health information
Most commonly, HIPAA protocol boils down to one thing: making sure patient information is safe. In order for an answering service to be HIPPA compliant, employees must be formally trained according to HIPAA rules and guidelines. In 2013, updates to HIPAA mandated that all service providers in the medical industry must comply with HIPAA. That means that even if your medical practice is already HIPAA compliant, your answering service needs to be as well.
Is it important to have a HIPAA compliant answering service?
HIPAA ensures that individuals’ Protected Health Information (PHI) is kept confidential and secure. This law – and your compliance with it – is the driving force behind a patient’s trust in a medical office. However, an off-site answering service would also be storing and transferring PHI digitally in the same way your employees do. That means that it’s crucial to verify any answering services’ HIPAA compliance – if you don’t, you could be subject to penalties, fines or even criminal charges. This will allowing you and your patients to rest easy knowing that their PHI is safe and secure.
How can you find a HIPAA compliant medical answering service?
Not all answering services are HIPAA compliant, but any medical answering service that is handling patient information needs to be HIPAA compliant in order to uphold legal standards. If you’re considering an answering service, use the following criteria to help you determine if they are a HIPAA compliant answering service:
- Are they storing all patient information in a secure and safe manner?
- Are they protecting recorded messages to be relayed to physicians or emergency providers?
- Are they sending patient messages to medical providers through a secure means so that patient information is protected in the process?
- Is their patient appointment scheduling system secure and protected?
- Is sensitive patient data appropriately encrypted?
- Are text message communications secure, even if a device is lost or stolen?
- Are all of their web portals secure so that your practice and patient’s information is protected at all times?
A HIPAA compliant answering service will be able to answer “yes” to all of these questions. If in doubt, make sure you talk to the service you are considering to make sure they understand HIPAA answering protocol — not just when it pertains to phone communications, but when it comes to texting, online scheduling, recording messages, web portals, and more.
Most answering services that are HIPAA-compliant will say so on their website and when you speak with them, but it’s a good idea to ask these questions to make sure they understand what that means.
Do you need a 24/7 HIPAA compliant answering service?
As any medical professional knows, patient requests don’t follow a 9 to 5 schedule. With a 24/7 answering service, you can rest assured that all of your patient calls are answered, even if they’re received on weekends, holidays or the middle of the night. Most medical practices can benefit from 24/7 availability and communication – and that communication needs to be HIPAA compliant.
How to get started with a HIPAA compliant medical answering service.
If you’re ready to get started with a HIPAA compliant answering service, we recommend finding a company with significant experience and a track record for success. Sunshine Answering Services is U.S. based, HIPAA compliant and has over 40 years of industry experience. We’re prepared to handle all of your medical practice’s calls, messages, inquiries and new patient requests with professionalism, empathy and HIPAA-compliant security.
Check out our plans and pricing to get started with Sunshine’s HIPAA compliant virtual receptionist service.
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