HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, has been around for over twenty years. Healthcare providers from individual practices to large health networks know the importance of HIPAA compliance and work hard to ensure they follow its regulations in their facility and within their operation.
However, HIPAA requirements also extend outside the healthcare organization. Specifically, it applies to answering services that have medical clients and handle healthcare related information. Here’s why healthcare providers must use a HIPAA compliant medical answering service.
It Protects Patient Information
Properly following HIPAA regulations secures patient information at your answering service and when they transmit it to you, such as when using a HIPAA-compliant smartphone app. Though most answering services claim to be HIPAA-compliant, not all are. Don’t accept their statements as fact without scrutinizing them first.
Keeping patient information confidential is the right thing to do. Though most patients assume this is the case, they could be making a false assumption. Take steps to ensure your patients’ trust in you isn’t misplaced. Don’t give them any reason to doubt their personal, private health data isn’t treated with the utmost care.
It Conveys Respect to Patients
As you treat patient information with care because it’s the ethical thing to do, you also demonstrate that you value your patients and their business. You respect them by keeping their private information private. This helps enhance the provider-patient relationship, building trust and earning their ongoing use of your healthcare services.
It’s a Best Practice
From a practical standpoint, taking steps to ensure the protection of patient information emerges as a best practice. It demonstrates that you care about details and want the very best for your patients. It shows that you won’t take shortcuts and put their personal data at risk just to save a few dollars.
It Meets HIPAA Regulations
HIPAA regulations require that patients’ personal health information is kept private and is securely maintained. You know this and make sure it happens within your facility. However, as an organization covered by HIPAA regulations—a covered entity (CE)—your responsibility also extends to your business associates (BA).
By definition your medical answering service is a business associate of your organization. You are responsible for what they do and don’t do to comply with HIPAA regulations. If they mess up, you’re liable. Don’t take that chance. Go with a medical answering service that’s willing to provide written documentation that they’re HIPAA compliant.
Being HIPAA compliant goes beyond the walls of your facility and extends to your medical answering service. You’re ultimately responsible for how they handle your patients’ information. Ensure that they’re HIPAA-compliant and get it in writing. Don’t leave this to chance or assume it will never be an issue. If it does, it’s too late to do anything about it—except pay the fines and apologize to everyone affected.
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