If your medical office is in search of an answering service, you’re probably looking for a company with representatives who are responsive. You also want people who will establish trust with your patients. But did you know that HIPAA compliance is important as well? In fact, it’s one of the primary boxes a medical answering service should check.
What is HIPAA?
Called “HIPAA” for short, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was passed in 1996 to make it easier for people to keep health insurance, protect the confidentiality and security of healthcare information and help the healthcare industry control administrative costs. It also allows people to keep insurance between jobs without a lapse in coverage.
As a medical office, you’re undoubtedly well aware of this law. However, you may not have considered how it affects the answering service you hire. After all, you want to protect the confidentiality and security of your patients’ healthcare information.
The Importance of Patient Trust
It’s up to physicians and medical offices to maintain patient trust and the HIPAA law helps guarantee that. You are entrusted with very private and personal information from each of your patients. The staff in your office understands this and has been highly trained to maintain the regulations of your industry.
If you outsource your calls to an answering service, however, they may or may not have the same regulations in mind. They’re also entrusted with personal health information during every call that they accept for you. They store and transmit this information electronically. Because of this, they have to follow the same HIPAA regulations, or you could be subjected to penalties, fines or even criminal charges.
How to Know if Your Answering Service Is Compliant
What this all boils down to is that you need to be selective when hiring an answering service for your medical office. Ask the right questions. Your prospective medical answering service should readily know the answers to the following:
- Who is your HIPAA compliancy officer?
- What date was your last documented HIPAA training?
- How often do you train your operators?
- What protocols do you follow to store, transmit and destroy messages?
In the end, you want to ensure that anyone who handles data about your patients follows the appropriate rules to ensure HIPAA compliancy. This gives you peace of mind and gives your patients the trust they deserve.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2014 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.