What are Communication Systems in Healthcare?

Effective communication is necessary to deliver safe, high-quality medical care in order to develop meaningful relationships with patients. Successful outcomes depend on accurate and effective communications between the two essential elements in a communication system - the patients and their healthcare providers. The other elements of a communication system include the actual messages (voice, text, emails) they send to each other, and the technologies that make this communication possible.

Types of Phone Systems

Hospital phone systems are the communication system of choice in most hospitals. Although some hospitals still use traditional landline systems such as PBX, most hospitals are migrating towards cloud-based systems. Here’s a look at the three main technology options that hospitals use to enable communications:

  • Internal PBX

This is the traditional hospital phone system, where the entire phone system is installed on-site. Since it involves actual hardware and equipment, it is expensive both to install and to expand as new phones are added. A big advantage however, is that since it is a closed system, the hospital has complete control over the phone system.

  • IP-PBX

IP-PBX, or Internet protocol PBX, is an improved version of the traditional PBX. This software-enabled system includes a server on site to handle phone operations. The advantages over a traditional PBX are that voicemails can now go to email inboxes, faxes can be converted to PDFs and video conferencing is an option. Additionally, off-site employees can plug into the system securely and have full access to the phone system feature set. Because this system is hosted internally, there is a cost to maintaining it but these costs are lower than a traditional PBX because there is less hardware involved.

  • Cloud-Based Systems

Hosted or closed-based phone systems remove much of the maintenance and hardware involved with a PBX, greatly reducing costs. Although cloud-based systems are hosted on external servers, security is not compromised, since they utilize the latest security software, hardware, and best practices. In many cases, cloud phone systems are more secure than a PBX because of improved hardware and software.

What are the Challenges of Traditional Hospital Phone Systems?

With the ideological shift being toward patient-centric care, communication systems in healthcare need to deliver consistent, positive patient experiences in every interaction with their patients. Traditional phone systems using PBX and IP-PBX are not able to deliver on this shift. They often fall short resulting in problems such as:

  • Subpar Customer Service: High call volumes put pressure on front office staff already under pressure to service the patients at the facility. They might be less than courteous to a patient on the phone, not provide the required information or not connect the patient to the appropriate healthcare resource.
  • Long Hold Times: Patients hang up before they speak to a representative because they’ve been put on hold too long. They are unlikely to call back and may call another hospital or health facility, resulting in the loss of a customer.
  • Incorrect Billing or Registration: A front office staff who has to register a patient over the phone, or provide information regarding the patient’s bills over the phone, could make mistakes either in recording or providing information.
  • Disclosure of Patient Information: While servicing a client, a representative could inadvertently disclose a patient’s personal health information to someone else.

Patients who have had less-than-ideal experiences, lose no time in posting such detrimental information to social media, resulting in bad publicity for the healthcare facility.

What are the Features of a Cloud-based Hospital Phone System?

Today, hospital phone systems combine the essential features of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) into a unified communications (UC) solution, where various methods of modern contact are aggregated and used. These solutions work well to increase patient engagement and satisfaction.

HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage

When it comes to trusting sensitive personal information to cloud storage, customers expect the highest standards of security and professionalism from the companies who host their data and the communications providers who handle it.

Nowhere is this more important than in healthcare, a huge sector of the economy which is a lucrative target for hackers. Case in point: In October of 2018 alone, a pair of phishing attacks in North Carolina and Minnesota saw over 40,000 patient records stolen for criminal purposes.

This kind of criminal behavior is the reason that the U.S government developed HIPAA regulations, which set the standard for protecting sensitive patient data. According to Online Tech, "The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule addresses the saving, accessing and sharing of medical and personal information of any individual, while the HIPAA Security Rule more specifically outlines national security standards to protect health data created, received, maintained or transmitted electronically, also known as electronic protected health information (ePHI)." These rules ensure the security of sensitive data that is stored on the cloud, therefore healthcare providers must ensure that their cloud phone system providers are 100% compliant with HIPAA.

How to Choose a HIPAA Compliant Cloud Phone System Provider?

In a healthcare environment, one of the largest potential vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit are communications systems in healthcare. Whenever data and personal medical records need to flow through the system, as is fundamental to communications, there is the possibility of data being stolen. When choosing a HIPAA compliant cloud phone system provider, choose one that complies with the HIPAA guidelines for data security. HIPAA mandates that these three communication systems in healthcare be secured:

  • Business Phone Services: Hospitals are large and busy places, and they rely on reliable communications systems in healthcare in order to run smoothly. Mobile devices and fixed lines need to be secure so medical personnel can speak freely and candidly about their patients.
  • Unified Communications: The modern medical system relies more than ever on direct connection between doctors and patients, via chat, text, web conferencing and file sharing. HIPAA has stringent guidelines to prevent the accidental disclosure of patient information while using these modes of communication.
  • Cloud Contact Center: A cloud-phone system provider that stores protected health information (PHI) on behalf of a healthcare organization, needs to install physical and technical safeguards such as audit controls and access controls, as well as administrative safeguards such as data backups and security incident procedures.

8x8 is a Secure Cloud Phone System Provider

The selection of a cloud phone system provider is a crucial step in upgrading your hospital communications system. Any company that deals with PHI or ePHI must ensure that all the required physical, network and process security measures are in place and followed. You need to partner with an experienced service provider who specializes in secure healthcare phone systems and understands the features and requirements that you require. At 8x8 we know the ins and outs of installing cloud phone systems for healthcare. We are a 100% HIPAA compliant cloud storage business associate who knows how to provide you secure communication systems in healthcare that you need to ensure increased patient engagement and retention.

When it comes to security, 8x8 provides reliable and compliant cloud solutions at a demanding level rarely seen by other cloud providers. Don't take your chances with a subpar cloud-based telecom system. Call 1-866-879-8647 or fill out our online form to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 Product Specialist

Related Topics

HIPAA Compliant Cloud Storage

Effective Communication In Healthcare

Unified Healthcare Communications

Communications Solutions for Healthcare