Many businesses in the medical industry choose to use a Medical Answering Service to make sure they take of their clients anytime they call. However, it’s important to ensure that your chosen service is HIPAA-compliant. Here’s what you need to know about HIPAA compliance and Medical Answering Services.
HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a set of regulations that govern the handling of Protected Health Information (PHI). PHI is any information that can be used to identify a person and their health condition. To protect patient privacy, HIPAA requires that all entities involved in the handling of PHI comply with several specific security measures. This includes medical answering services.
As stated above, if you’re considering using a Medical Answering Service, it’s important to make sure that the service is HIPAA-compliant. This means that they have implemented the necessary security measures to protect PHI. You can check to see if a service is HIPAA-compliant by looking for the HIPAA seal on their website.
If you’re already using a Medical Answering Service, be sure to ask them about their HIPAA compliance status. If they are not compliant, you may need to find a new service.
Remember, protecting patient privacy is critical in the medical industry. The U.S. government takes HIPAA compliance seriously, and violators can face heavy fines. Be sure to choose a medical answering service that is HIPAA-compliant to protect your patients’ privacy and avoid any penalties.
What Information is considered PHI?
The HIPAA Privacy Rule defines PHI as any information that can be used to identify a person and their health condition. This includes, but is not limited to:
• Full names
• Birth dates
• Addresses (geographical areas smaller than a state)
• Phone numbers and area codes
• Email addresses
• Fax numbers
• Social security numbers and much more.
If you’re unsure whether a piece of information is considered PHI, err on the side of caution, and assume that it is. When in doubt, consult with a HIPAA compliance officer.
Is PHI valuable to criminals?
You bet it is. PHI is valuable to criminals because it can be used to commit identity theft or fraud. In some cases, PHI can also be sold on the black market. So, it’s important to make sure that your medical answering service is HIPAA-compliant.
What are the consequences of a data breach?
If PHI is not properly protected and a data breach occurs, the penalties can be severe. The HIPAA Security Rule requires covered entities to implement physical, administrative, and technical safeguards to protect PHI. If these safeguards are not in place and a data breach occurs, they can fine covered entities up to $50,000 per violation. In addition, violators may also be subject to criminal charges.
Keep in mind that the HIPAA security rule says that organizations must take proactive threats to PHI. This means that you can’t just rely on your Medical Answering Service to have the proper security measures in place. You need to make sure that your own organization is HIPAA-compliant as well.
Useful HIPAA resources that you can search and learn more:
– The HIPAA Privacy Rule: A Guide for Business Associates
– The HIPAA Security Rule: A Guide for Small Health Plans
– HHS Office for Civil Rights – Understanding HIPAA Compliance and What it Means for Your Business
While this article is not meant to be an exhaustive guide to HIPAA compliance, we hope it’s given you a better understanding of the importance of HIPAA and how it applies to Medical Answering Services. We are just skimming the surface here. Remember, when in doubt, always consult with your HIPAA compliance officer. They can help you determine what steps you need to take to ensure that your organization is compliant.
Find out more about PCMSI.
Our HIPAA-compliant Medical Answering Service is affordable, reliable, and completely customizable. We have been serving our clients and their callers locally, nationally, and internationally for over 60 Years! We look forward to the opportunity to partner with you. Visit us at pcmsi.com or call us anytime at 888-776-2661.