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The way health information is transferred, shared, and stored is crucial. Regulations of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) not only affect direct providers, but these guidelines also extend to third parties who medical professionals hire or contract with. If you’re a doctor or medical provider outsourcing your messaging service, it’s important to ensure the answering service is HIPAA compliant. A non-compliant answering service or violations by hired third parties can adversely affect you. But, are answering services HIPAA compliant? It’s not always a simple yes or no so how do you know the answering service you hired is HIPAA compliant? Here are some things to look for to protect your patients and your practice when hiring an answering service.

Did the Answering Service Complete HIPAA Certification and Training?

The healthcare industry makes up a large portion of the clientele for messaging and answering services. Some messaging services are HIPAA compliant and have undergone training to identify what Protected Health Information (PHI) is and how to safeguard it. This training includes managing who has access to patient information such as office personnel or any additional contractors your answering service may use such as IT or cleaning services. Precautions include keeping software and systems that store patient data up to date and secure from unauthorized personnel. Another indicator of HIPAA compliance is that frequent risk assessments are conducted and contingency plans are placed to correct and avoid potential breaches. Responsive Answering Service provides 100% doctor-patient confidentiality and is HIPAA compliant.

What’s in the Business Associate Agreement?

A business associate agreement (BAA) between two entities outlines what PHI the answering service will have access to. It details how the information will be shared, communicated between the two parties, and how private data will be returned or destroyed after a contract is completed. A HIPAA BAA also highlights what plans are in place to ensure the answering service has an ongoing commitment to HIPAA compliance and how potential violations are prevented and handled. This ensures all parties are on the same page.

How is PHI Transmitted?

Just as important as how PHI is stored is how it’s transmitted. Health information has migrated onto software platforms making it easier to share information between medical professionals and patients. However, this technological migration has opened up new ways for unauthorized users to gain access to private information. A key factor in how patient information is properly safeguarded is how messaging is being used to share PHI between parties. Previous communication methods such as traditional pagers, Alpha Page, or sending unencrypted emails and texts are no longer sufficient. These ways of relaying information have opened doors to potential breaches that can cost your business or practice fines and restitution. Responsive Answering Services uses MiSecure, a secure 2-way smartphone and tablet messaging system that relays patient information to providers accurately and securely. MiSecure is a secured app that downloads to your already existing device to provide quick HIPAA compliant messaging on one device. All messages are encrypted and are not stored on your phone or tablet.

Hiring an answering service that meets your needs and understands the intricacies of HIPAA compliance is important. Responsive Answering Service has been providing answering services, appointment scheduling, message delivery, and more for healthcare professionals for over a decade. Request a quote for more information on the services we can provide your business or healthcare practice.