If you’re in the home healthcare industry, you certainly know the impact of HIPAA. This set of privacy laws governs how healthcare providers should treat their patients’ medical data, but it also affects the vendors you work with.
If you want to respect your patients’ privacy and remain compliant with government regulations, it is essential to use a HIPAA compliant answering service. What makes an answering service qualify as HIPAA compliant? There are four key features to look for.
Rigorous Data Security Standards
A lot of protected health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII) is passed back and forth between your staff and the answering service. Over the course of a single call, answering service staff might do things like collect names and addresses or mention a patient’s healthcare needs. If this information is not handled correctly, it could be a HIPAA violation. Therefore, it is essential to find an answering service that protects all of your data and understands the do’s and don’ts.
A high-quality service that follows HIPAA guidelines will meet a myriad of industry-standard security guidelines. This includes sending emails via encrypted email and using a secure messaging system. All data needs must be stored in private locations protected by bullet-proof protocols that include constantly changing (and safeguarded) passwords.
Ongoing HIPAA Training
Healthcare professionals must stay informed and receive ongoing training. A HIPAA compliant answering service’s staff should too! HIPAA laws are constantly updated to stay relevant to new technology and healthcare privacy rules, so it’s important for to keep staff up-to-date. And so it is with your answering service: a HIPAA compliant telephone answering service makes ongoing training a part of their routine.
Regular training gives answering service staff a valuable chance to brush up on new HIPAA regulations. Instead of simply sitting through a quick course when hired, staff are frequently reminded of how to handle data.
Frequent Updates for Software and Hardware
Your PHI is only as secure as your technology. An answering service that’s required to follow HIPAA guidelines pays close attention to the type of technology used. Using up-to-date technology is essential if you want to protect your patient’s data and stay HIPAA-compliant.
Only the highest quality answering service will use updated computers, phones, and other hardware. They will also have a clearly defined schedule for updating their software. This is important because using outdated technology is one of the most-preventable causes of data leaks. If a system is outdated, scam artists will exploit vulnerabilities and steal patient data.
Dedicated HIPAA Compliance Officer
When an answering service has a dedicated HIPAA compliance officer, you can trust them to correctly handle your sensitive data. A dedicated compliance officer has undergone extensive training, more than other employees including all the nuanced legal details.
The compliance officer is essential because they coordinate tasks between various departments. This ensures that any small HIPAA compliance tasks don’t end up falling through cracks. Having a focused, highly-trained person overseeing everything does much to guarantee that the high quality answering service remains HIPAA compliant.
Typically, the compliance officer also monitors any new regulations or guidelines on the Health and Human Services (HHS) and state sites.
Do your homework! By carefully selecting an answering service that fulfills these requirements, you can be confident that your patient data is secure and that you won’t run afoul of the numerous HIPAA guidelines. And with this, it makes it easier to focus on what you do best: taking care of your patients and your medical staff.