What are the rules for HIPAA Compliant Telemedicine?

Electronic Healthcare

The rule for HIPAA Compliant Telemedicine in call centers is something every company, providing an answering service or call-forwarding service for the healthcare industry, should be making themselves very familiar with in order to avoid potential breaches.

When the Final Omnibus Rule introduced the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 2013, all service providers processing, storing or transmitting ePHI directly or on behalf of a healthcare organization became subject to the same Privacy and Security Rules as the healthcare group using its services.

This means that healthcare organizations will avoid using the services of a call center unless they be independently verified as communicating ePHI in compliance with HIPAA. HIPAA compliant texting in call centers is not difficult or costly to put into action. Additionally, it has been shown that HIPAA compliance for call centers speeds up the cycle of communication – streamlining workflows and improving the level of service given to patients.

Secure Texting Solutions Implemented by Healthcare Organizations

A number of the most relevant amendments relating to HIPAA compliance for call centers were contained in the HIPAA Security Rule. The Security Rule governs topics including: who should have access to ePHI, how the integrity of ePHI should be secured while patient data is being transmitted, and what controls should be implemented to prevent an accidental or deliberate breach of ePHI.

Many healthcare groups have put in place implemented secure texting solutions to adhere with the requirements of the Security Rule, and these solutions are equally appropriate to ensure HIPAA compliant texting in call centers as a different option to insecure forms of communication such as SMS, Instant Messaging and email.

By adapting their own secure texting solutions, call centers will be sending ePHI in compliance with HIPAA with the necessary security measures in place to control who has access to ePHI, ensure the end-to-end integrity of ePHI and to avoid any breaches of ePHI – either accidental or deliberate.

Guide to HIPAA Compliance for Call Centers

Secure texting solutions allow HIPAA compliance for call centers by only permitting authorized users to access the call center´s private communications network. Access to the network is granted via secure messaging apps only with an admin-issued credentials.

Once into the network, authorized users can then interact with other authorized users, share documents, files and pictures as attachments, and engage in safe group discussions when an instance arises that would prosper using collaboration.

Security measures are in place to stop ePHI being sent outside of the call center network, copied and pasted or downloaded to an external hard drive. All actions on the network are monitored by a cloud-based secure messaging network and, if a potential breach of ePHI is discovered, any communication can be remotely retracted and wiped

All communications are encrypted in line with NIST standards so that they are unreadable, undecipherable and unusable should they be intercepted on a public Wi-Fi network; and – should an authorized user lose their mobile device or have it illegally taken – administrators can PIN lock the device to stop unauthorized access to ePHI.

Other security measures to ensure HIPAA compliance for call centers includes “message lifespans” – a feature that deletes messages containing ePHI from an authorized user´s computer or mobile device after a pre-determined duration of time – and “app time outs”, a safety method that logs users out of the network after a duration of inactivity to stop unauthorized access to ePHI when a desktop computer or mobile device is unattended.

The Benefits of Communicating ePHI in Compliance with HIPAA

There are multiple benefits of HIPAA compliance for call centers – not solely for the call center sending ePHI in compliance with HIPAA, but also for the healthcare group it is supplying a service to:

  • HIPAA compliant texting in call centers allows on-call physicians to receive sensitive patient information while in transit.
  • Pictures of wounds, x-rays and patient treatment histories can also be attached to secure text messages to save the physician´s time at admission.
  • Delivery alerts and read receipts cut out the need for subsequent messages and reduce the amount of time lost on phone calls.
  • Both the call center and the healthcare group it supplies a service to can put in place BYOD policies without the danger of an ePHI breach.
  • Physicians and other healthcare workers can leverage the speed and convenience of mobile technology to supply a higher level of service to patients.
  • Sending ePHI in compliance with HIPAA also improves message accountability, as the following case study shows.

With 17 locations in Arizona, the call center used by the El Rio Community Health Centers implemented a HIPAA-compliant texting solution to address problems it was having with efficient call support, patient follow-up and message accountability.

Due to HIPAA compliant texting in call centers, response times reduced so that 95 percent of concerns were answered in less than sixty seconds, the concerns were evaluated and settled more efficiently to give a higher level of service to patients, and message accountability improved by 22 percent.

tIn having The ability to to review communication metrics, administrators at the Community Health Centers were able to put in place a streamlined workflow that ensured proper patient follow-up and risk management. As per the organization´s CIO, sending ePHI in compliance with HIPAA cut out lost message errors which translated into increased patient satisfaction.

Final Thoughts on HIPAA Compliance for Call Centers

We referred at the start of this article that healthcare organizations will avoid engaging the services of a call center unless it can be independently verified the call center is sharing ePHI in compliance with HIPAA. However, that should not be the only reason for HIPAA compliance for call centers.

HIPAA compliant texting in call centers can result in the healthcare organizations served by the call center streamlining workflows and improving the level of service given to patients. If a healthcare organization benefits from the service it gets from the call center, the call centers reputation will be better and new business opportunities may come about.

We also stated at the start of this article that HIPAA compliant texting in call centers is not difficult or costly to put in place. This is due to the fact that the secure messaging apps have a text-like interface that authorized users will already be aware of and that will require no special training before they can use it.

As HIPAA compliance for call centers is supplied using a cloud-based “Software-as-a-Service” platform, there is no requirement to invest in new servers, extra hardware or complicated software programs. Secure texting solutions are purchased “out of the box” and can be adapted and introduced in 24 hours to meet all of a call center´s secure texting requirements.