The 2021 Protenus Breach Barometer found data breaches in healthcare had risen a whopping 30% from the previous year.
And with the stark rise in telemedicine services, it’s no wonder the Office for Civil Rights is imposing more and bigger fines on violators – and why having a HIPAA-compliant VoIP phone system is more important than ever.
But when the topic of HIPAA compliance comes up, one usually thinks of how protected health information (PHI) is stored and used on a computer.
That said, HIPAA compliance applies to VoIP as much as any other networked system.
Why Do Your VoIP Systems Need to be HIPAA-Compliant?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a regulation designed, among other things, to manage the use and storage of PHI. When you think of HIPAA compliance, computers, servers, and cloud services will come to mind – but the list doesn’t stop there.
Any service that’s being used to store or transmit PHI must comply with HIPAA requirements. VoIP systems are internet-based, meaning all information that’s transmitted will pass through networks and servers.
As such, you need a HIPAA-compliant phone system to transmit patient information, conduct video conferences with patients, transfer files, and more.
Who Does HIPAA Apply To?
The HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to Covered Entities, such as doctors, hospitals, insurers, and other organizations involved in healthcare. But because these healthcare providers require other vendors to operate (such as IT services, VoIP, etc.), the requirement of HIPAA compliance extends to them as well.
However, not all vendors, referred to as Business Associates, may not satisfy HIPAA standards, especially if they are new to the healthcare industry. That means you, the healthcare provider, can be at risk of violation and fines.
It follows then that any healthcare provider requiring VoIP services would select a Business Associate that complies with HIPAA, and ensure the safety of PHI.
What You Should Look for in a HIPAA-Compliant Phone Service
To comply with the HIPAA Security Rule, a Business Associate must comply with the following:
- Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all electronic PHI
- Detect and safeguard against anticipated threats to the security of the information
- Protect against anticipated impermissible uses or disclosures
- Certify compliance by their workforce
Some examples of security compliance a firm should follow include:
- Data encryption for confidentiality
- Having a secure firewall to protect from hackers
- Regular software audits to keep platforms current
- Single-tenant equipment and software to keep data separate from other companies
Any VoIP provider you’re considering should be up front about their HIPAA compliance. This information should be readily available on their website. If not, their company representative should be able to clearly answer your questions.
Some HIPAA-Compliant VoIP Services You Can Consider
Here are a few well-known services for VoIP that are HIPAA compliant.
RingCentral emphasizes their team meetings and messaging features, including video conferencing over the desktop phone or mobile, made possible by their secure cloud-based service.
Their omnichannel contact center lets you answer calls, reach out with campaign dialers, and manage channels. They operate in over 50 countries and offer easy deployment of services.
Venantro highlights their AI machine learning, which allows you to send automated messages, appointment reminders, and fill empty appointment slots.
Also, detailed statistics are recorded, including call status, average call duration, reports based on department, and many other features.
This company offers many optional features, emphasizing an all-in-one approach. It merges virtual doctor’s appointments with a patient portal, documentation storage, billing, insurance management, and more to serve all telehealth needs.
In addition to providing a HIPAA-compliant virtual phone number, they offer a self-directed website building service for new practices, or for established firms that want to revamp and modernize their look.
RingRX offers fully integrated voice, text, and on-call service with an API that powers third-party integrations with electronic health and medical record (EHR and EMR) systems, revenue cycle management, and practice management partners.
RingRX also supports fax, recognizing that some of your clients may still use older technology. You also have the advantage of transcribed voice messages, shared mailboxes, call recording, and tracking for inbound reputation scoring.
Make Sure You Choose a HIPAA-Compliant Phone Service
HIPAA-compliant VoIP systems are easily overlooked, whether you’re a small medical practice or a large hospital. If you’re uncertain about your provider’s HIPAA credentials, it’s best to get confirmation directly from them.
It’s why many healthcare providers work with telecom consultants to identify the right providers for their institution. Choosing the wrong provider can easily cost the practice thousands in additional telecom fees, without providing any real benefit.
Begin by asking what your practice or institution needs. That’ll provide a clear picture of the kind of services you require and which telecom companies are offering the best prices.
Find out how we help healthcare providers reduce telecom costs while ensuring HIPAA compliance.