That may not seem like a lot, but considering that the ideal number is zero, that number is quite concerning. Over 500 records during 2018 alone were compromised on a daily basis and they were reported at a rate of at least one per day. These breaches resulted in theft and loss of information and exposure of private information.
If you have a medical practice, one of your top priorities is likely to be ensuring that you are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). While there are many aspects of HIPAA compliance that require your attention, one key area is protecting patients' health information (PHI) by using secure communication methods.
Most medical practices use some form of phone number for communication with patients. Whether you're providing appointment reminders or taking orders for prescription refills, a HIPAA-compliant phone number can help ensure that your patients' information is kept safe and secure.
One question you may have is whether you really need a HIPAA-compliant phone number for your practice. We're going to explore that question and give the answer. We will also provide some guidance on what to consider when making the decision so, keep reading.
What Is HIPAA and What Does It Require From Medical Practices?
HIPAA is a federal law that was enacted in 1996. Its main purpose was to require the creation of standards on a national scale to help protect sensitive patient information regarding health.
The public law has two main goals. The first is to make it easier for people to keep their health insurance coverage when they change or lose their jobs. The second is to protect the confidentiality and security of patient health information.
HIPAA includes several provisions, but the one that is most relevant to communication and sharing data is the Privacy Rule. This rule establishes national standards for protecting PHI. It gives patients certain rights concerning their information and sets out rules for how covered entities, like medical practices, must handle PHI.
The Privacy Rule requires covered entities to take measures to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all electronic PHI they create, receive, maintain, or transmit. In other words, PHI must be kept secure and confidential at all times.
There are several ways to achieve this, but one of the most important is to use encryption when transmitting PHI electronically. Encryption is a process that scrambles data so that it can only be read by someone with the proper key.
For example, if you were to send an email containing PHI, you would want to encrypt the email so that it could not be read by anyone other than the intended recipient.
Other Methods of Protecting Data
You can also protect PHI by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN creates a secure, encrypted connection between two devices over the internet. This ensures that any information transmitted between the devices remains private and confidential.
Another way to protect PHI is to use a secure messaging app. These apps are designed to protect the confidentiality of PHI and usually include features like encryption and password protection.
A good example of a product like this would be text messaging capabilities through iPlum. While remaining compliant with HIPAA and HITECH, you can expect to have secure texting capabilities across your communication network.
Why Does Your Medical Practice Need a Compliant Phone Number?
A HIPAA compliant phone number is a phone number that protects sensitive information. The number is often a second line that's separate from the main practice phone number. This ensures that PHI is not inadvertently sent to or received from the wrong person. It's like another form of security.
Another reason to use a HIPAA compliant phone number is that it allows you to send and receive PHI via text message. This is a convenient way to communicate with patients without having to worry about the confidentiality of their information.
The most important thing is that it can help you avoid potential fines and penalties. If you were to use a regular phone number for PHI, and that number was to be compromised, you could be subject to a maximum fine of up to $1.5 million in a year.
So, if you are negligent or non-compliant in any way, you could end up with a fine from as little as $100 to even $50,000 for each violation. That is for every record of noncompliance.
While you are not required by law to use a HIPAA compliant phone number, it is something you should consider if you want to protect the confidentiality of your patient's PHI and to limit any risk of having to pay expensive fines or upset the reputation of your medical practice.
What Is a Second Phone Line?
A second phone line is a separate phone line that you can use for business purposes. This type of phone line is also sometimes referred to as a virtual phone number or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) number. Here are some benefits:
Give your practice a more professional appearance
Easier to track calls and measure call volume
Second phone lines can route to your existing phone
Some second phone lines offer multiple features
Now that we've laid out some of the important benefits of having a secondary phone number for your practice, think about how you could apply them. By being able to easily track your call volume, you could make transformations for your practice easier. This is helpful information to have when you're trying to improve your practice.
Being able to track call volume will allow you to staff your practice more efficiently by compiling when you receive the most calls and what they usually entail. Doing so can also help with hiring efforts as you'll be able to better pinpoint the type of additional help that you'd need.
Additionally, having access to a second line app will allow you to use on-call monitoring, or have access to your clinic's phone lines while you're away from the site. This means that you don't need to carry around multiple devices or check in with your clinic if you're away.
Also, we mentioned the multiple features you'd get. Many of them would include features like call forwarding, voicemail, and caller ID blocking, all of which can be useful for businesses.
Whether or not you should use a second phone line for your medical practice depends on your specific needs and circumstances. If you decide that a second phone line is right for you, be sure to choose a reputable provider like iPlum. You'll want to get features that will be useful for your business and that will be easy to navigate and operate while protecting sensitive information and data.
What Are the Benefits of Using a HIPAA Compliant Number?
A close look at the benefits can often help practices determine how their workflows will be impacted. You can expect an addition to your practice like a second phone line to do the following:
Help you comply with the law
Protect your patients’ information
Provide a professional image for your practice
Give you peace of mind
Ensure continuity of care for your patients
When you use virtual methods of communication, you'll notice a few benefits. Aside from the portability and overall convenience, you could set auto-text to any calls you miss. Some options may even allow you to do this with voicemail.
You will have a caller ID as well as call returns. By streamlining your communications this way, you could protect your staff and your patients. While cloud phone systems increase efficiency, they do the same with safety when they're designed for that reason.
If you decide for any reason that you're better off monitoring your medical practice' communications, keep the risks in mind. If you end up with an issue, you may deal with the following:
Experience violating HIPAA regulations
Face fines and penalties
Damage your reputation
Lose patients’ trust
Negatively impact continuity of care for your patients
Is There a Way to Test if My Current Phone System Is HIPAA Compliant?
Yes, there are a few ways you can test if your current phone system is HIPAA compliant. First, make sure the provider offers encryption. This will ensure that your PHI is always kept confidential.
You can also work with an expert that specializes in HIPAA compliance to ensure your practice's current workflow is continuously compliant. Evaluate your patient's data and use third-party options like iPlum to help strengthen how you approach HIPAA regulations.
Make sure that your information is well-maintained and that you log communication efforts. With this, testing apps that you use can also be helpful.
How Can You Get a HIPAA Compliant Phone Number for Your Medical Practice?
You can easily do this by working with iPlum. Medical practices have rules and regulations that they have to comply with, and different modes of communication fall within that. With iPlum products, you will notice that you can connect to external systems.
This is helpful if you're looking for API integration so that you can safely enter the EHR or EMR that you use. To make things easier, if you decide that you could benefit from a virtual number that is convenient and HIPAA Compliant, you will also have the option of porting numbers. This means that you can transfer any existing numbers to the platform without any hassle.
If you need to keep track of your call volume, expenses, or anything else concerning your communication, you will have the report center readily available for you to generate reports that are easy to understand and follow.
Online faxing, finance and legal compliance, and an advanced password policy make it simple for you to communicate with patients without compromising their data. Additionally, you can create team accounts.
This is a great option for practices that have multiple providers, or large teams in general. You can ensure that you're entire team isn't putting any important information at risk of being breached. Getting a HIPAA-compliant number is quite simple and affordable as well.
How Much Does a HIPAA Compliant Phone Number Cost?
You may think that a HIPAA compliance line is expensive. The price may be a fraction of other expenses. iPlum mentions that three parts make up a compliance line. With each fax or phone line, each line has its own compliance and BAA, which is a business associate agreement.
Medical practices also have the option to go month-to-month as well. This is a great option for practices that might want to try out a service before committing.
Get Rid of the Risk With iPlum
iPlum is rated the #1 virtual line option. Busy professionals, organizations, and companies, especially within the healthcare industry, can take advantage of multiple options, including HIPAA compliant phone numbers with securing text messaging capabilities, business hour settings, dual calling, and an auto-attendant.
If you have a medical practice and you want to limit your risk of HIPAA non-compliance, contact our team today.