Communication Skills for the Healthcare Professional

Dealing with patients, often in times of crisis or stress, means having highly sophisticated communication skills for the healthcare professional. Demonstrating compassion, clarity and patience can go a long way in helping patients seeking medical advice. While anyone that has contact with patients typically undergoes training in dealing with patients directly, little attention gets focused on the communications systems used and the rules that must be followed.

The introduction of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) changed the way healthcare professionals deal with patients, data privacy, and security.

HIPAA Privacy rules set standards for protecting a patient’s medical records and other personal health information. It sets limits on disclosure and use. It also gives patients the right to examine and receive copies of their records as well as request corrections. The Security Rule requires administration, physical and technical safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and security of protected health information (PHI).

Failure to follow the rules can be costly; noncompliance fines range between $100 and $50,000 per violation. The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has levied substantial fines for failure to safeguard patient information, including a $5.5 million settlement with one major healthcare company for data breaches affecting four million people. In addition, organizations and individuals can be held criminally liable for knowingly disclosing PHI or using it for commercial gain.

It’s more than just the risk of fines or penalties. Failure to comply can be a public relations nightmare for organizations. Your reputation can be damaged quickly in case of a breach or disclosure. There is also the risk of potential lawsuits from affected individuals and the cost to repair the damage. Repairing the damage from a breach in healthcare typically costs more than in any other industry with an average of $7.35 million for data breaches that resulted in the exposure or theft of more than 5,000 records.

Let's take a look at the technical, physical and administrative safeguards your company needs to stay in compliance with to avoid HIPAA violations.

Technical Safeguards

Technical safeguards include:

  • Verification of the identity of the person accessing data
  • Access to data, including tracking users, encryption and automatic logoffs
  • Audit control to record activity
  • Policies and procedures to mandate integrity, such as protecting data from alteration, destruction or dissemination except for in approved uses

Physical Safeguards

Physical safeguards include:

  • Limiting access to facilities storing health information
  • Procedures for restoring lost data
  • Facility security plans
  • Maintaining maintenance records for repairs and/or modifications
  • Monitoring workstation use to make sure access to PHI is not done on computers (or other electronic computing devices) that are simultaneously used for other purposes that might expose data (such as a browser)
  • Restrictions on workstation access, which might include physical barriers to prevent inadvertent disclosure to public or staff, or controlled access in a secure workspace
  • Procedures for removal of any electronic media (or hardware) containing PHI within the facility, leaving the facility, data backup and storage

Administrative Safeguards

Administrative safeguards include:

  • Policies governing detecting and containing any potential breaches or disclosure and plans for reporting and correcting any violations
  • Risk analysis plans and risk management plans
  • Designated security officer responsible for developing and implementing plans
  • Security procedures spelling out employee access, authorization, supervision and termination
  • Security training and awareness for healthcare workers or anyone with access
  • Incident reporting procedures in case of any inappropriate access, disclosure, modification or destruction of records
  • Contingency plans covering data backup, disaster recovery and emergencies
  • Compliance reviews, records and evaluations
  • Business Associate Agreements governing third-parties, vendors, contractors or other organizations that interact with PHI on your behalf

Reduce Your Risk of HIPAA Noncompliance

Ensuring compliance and protecting PHI privacy can be complex. When it comes to communication systems, you need to make sure you work with someone that can commit to being fully compliant. Working with a company that provides specialized services to healthcare professionals and can design systems to comply with the stringent HIPAA rules can protect you and mitigate your risk.

8x8 provides secure solutions for healthcare professionals. From Business phone services to unified communications to cloud contact centers, we can handle the most complex communications needs. We can configure your communications systems to be fully HIPAA-complaint and provide customized Business Associate Agreements to document your compliance.

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.

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