If you work in the medical field, you’re no stranger to the importance of following HIPAA protocol. Also known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA puts in place strong guidelines regulating how patients’ medical information is stored and shared. It’s crucial that these standards are upheld every day. At a time when data breaches are becoming more and more common, it’s important to think about how your health care practice is implementing HIPAA in its daily operations. Particularly if you use third-party vendors to handle your support calls or document mailings, you must work with organizations that have a detailed understanding of HIPAA. 

Just because a business isn’t a hospital or doctor’s office, that doesn’t mean that it can skirt HIPAA regulations. From interactions with insurance agencies to rescheduling appointments for specialists, there are plenty of times that a customer’s personal information could be compromised. HIPAA breaches carry with them specific, actionable steps that must be executed any time a breach occurs. This includes notifying individuals and media outlets, as well as notifying the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s ideal to avoid such breaches, which is why it’s always a good idea to audit your business practices as well as the practices of third parties.

A HIPAA compliant call center is an absolute must for hospitals and health care practices. Call centers frequently handle customer data when discussing appointments, handling the payment of medical bills, and other routine interactions between patients and health care providers. How customer data is stored and accessed also is strongly regulated. Personal data security is paramount in any call center, and the added layer of HIPAA compliance makes data security even more critical. Having a system that can encrypt key fields that are designated as sensitive information is one such extra layer necessitated by HIPAA. A call center software package goes the extra mile in this area by also offering encryption of all channels of communication, including emails, chats, and voice recordings.

One of the other most frequently used third-party companies for any doctor’s office or hospital is the printing and delivery of paper statements. While some companies have opted to offer digital statements delivered directly to patients’ emails, the fact remains that some individuals prefer to receive communications from their doctors through the mail. This can put a host of sensitive data at risk since medical bills frequently include a wide range of conditions, prescriptions, procedures, and diagnoses. Beyond that, other personal information a patient might want to keep private may also be included in medical mailings. As a result, HIPAA patient statement printing is yet another important area to pay attention to in your HIPAA audit.

Proper handling of your patients’ statements comes from rigorous, appropriate training. A business such as Smart Payables is one example of how a company can provide this peace-of-mind, by training their staff to follow all laws and regulations as they apply to their work. Beyond HIPAA compliance, companies like Smart Payables also offer PCI compliance, disaster recovery, and compliance with SOC 1 Type 2 standards.

As you can see, the importance of HIPAA compliance reaches far beyond the walls of your hospital or doctor’s office. To perform a proper and comprehensive HIPAA audit of your health care practice, it’s important to list all third-party organizations that you interface with to ensure their compliance as well. This includes finding businesses to handle your printing, mailing, and call center operations. Finding organizations and businesses who can handle your key business functions in compliance with all HIPAA regulations takes time, but is well worth the effort.