HIPAA Compliance for Call Centers

What are the Responsibilities of a HIPAA Compliance Officer?

HIPAA Compliant Texting in Call Centers

HIPAA compliance for call centers is an important concern for all companies offering the healthcare industry an answering or call-forwarding service. Since the update of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 2013 by the Final Omnibus Rule, all business associates processing, storing or sending ePHI directly or on behalf of a healthcare company are governed by the same Privacy and Security Rules that the healthcare organization itself follows.

Because of the above mentioned update, healthcare organizations will not employ the expert services of a call center unless it is in compliance with HIPAA with regards to its mean of communicating ePHI. It is not expensive nor difficult for call centers to implement HIPAA compliant texting. Moreover, HIPAA compliance for call centers speeds up the communication cycle, simplifying workflows and improving the quality of services offered to patients.

Implementing Secure Texting Solutions in Healthcare Organizations

The terms associated with HIPAA compliance for call centers are spelled out in the HIPAA Security Rule. The Security Rule governs issues like who ought to have ePHI access, how ePHI integrity ought to be maintained while transmitting patient data, and what security measures must be used to avoid malicious or accidental breaches of ePHI.

A lot of healthcare organizations have used secure texting solutions to adhere to the HIPAA Security Rule requirements. These solutions allow texting in call centers in a HIPAA compliant manner and they serve as a more secure substitute for insecure forms of communication such as Instant Messaging services, SMS and email.

By employing their own secure texting solutions, call centers can communicate ePHI in accordance with HIPAA. The solutions have the required safety measures in place to manage who is able to access ePHI, they ensure end-to-end protection of ePHi, ensure integrity of ePHI is maintained, and they prevent breaches of ePHI – both malicious or accidental.

How HIPAA Compliance Texting for Call Centers Works

Secure texting solutions help call centers with HIPAA compliance by only giving authorized users access to the call center´s private communications network. Access is gained by means of secure messaging applications with a username and PIN code issued by the administrator.

Once logged into the network, authorized users can connect with other authorized users, share documents with attachments of files and images, and participate in secure group discussions when a situation comes up that requires collaboration.

Safety measures are set up to prevent ePHI from being copied, pasted or saved to a portable drive or transmitted outside the call center´s network. All network activities are monitored, and in case a device used with the messaging app is lost or stolen, communications can be retracted and erased remotely.

The network uses encrypted communications following NIST standards to ensure they’re unreadable, unusable and undecipherable in case they are accessed on a public Wi-Fi network. Or if an authorized user’s mobile device got lost or stolen, mobile devices can be PIN locked to prevent unauthorized ePHI access. Other safety measures that help call centers with HIPAA compliance include “message lifespans,” which is a feature that deletes messages with ePHI from an authorized user´s PC or mobile device after a set time period. App time outs are a safety feature that logs out users from the network if they are inactive for a certain time period to avoid unauthorized persons from accessing ePHI on a computer or mobile device that has been left unattended.

The Benefits of Communicating ePHI in Accordance with HIPAA

Call centers get several benefits when communicating ePHI in a HIPAA-compliant manner. The healthcare organization the call center is servicing also benefits from this.

  • HIPAA compliant texting in call centers allows on-call doctors to get sensitive patient data on the go.
  • Wound pictures, x-rays and patient medical histories can likewise be sent in secure text messages so that the doctor saves time upon arrival.
  • Delivery notices and read receipts do away with the need to send follow-up messages and lessen the time spent playing phone tag.
  • The call center and the healthcare company provided with the service can carry out BYOD policies without risking a ePHI breach.
  • Doctors and other medical experts can take advantage of the quickness and ease of using mobile technology to give a higher quality of patient service.
  • Communicating ePHI in accordance with HIPAA improves message accountability, as the following case study shows.

The call center providing services to the El Rio Community Health Centers used a HIPAA-compliant texting solution to deal with its problems, provide efficient call support, ensure message accountability and conduct patient follow-ups. Following the implementation of a HIPAA compliant texting platform, there was an improvement in response times. 95% of calls for support were responded to in 60 seconds or less, the issues were assessed and fixed more effectively which resulted in a higher quality of service to patients. Message accountability also improved by 22 percent.

By monitoring communication metrics, Community Health Center administrators had created a simplified workflow that made certain of good patient follow-up and risk control. Communicating ePHI in accordance with HIPAA removed lost message errors which contributed to greater patient satisfaction.

Conclusion

As mentioned at the start of this article, healthcare companies do not want to employ the services of a call center except if it is in compliance with HIPAA with regards to its communication of ePHI. But that is not the only reason why call centers should comply with the HIPAA.

HIPAA compliant texting in call centers helps the healthcare companies served by the call center by simplifying workflows and improving the quality of patient services. If a healthcare company benefits from the services the call centers provide, call centers will have a good reputation which will help it secure further healthcare clients.

Implementing HIPAA compliant texting in call centers is not hard or costly. The solutions are quick and easy to implement and the SMS-like interface of secure messaging apps means most users will already be familiar with the system and no special training will need to be provided.

A cloud-based “Software-as-a-Service” platform can provide HIPAA compliance for call centers. Hence, investment in new servers, added hardware or complex software programs, will not be required. “Out of the box” secure texting solutions can be used within twenty-four hours.