HIPAA Compliant Fax Service: What You Need to Know
Chances are your business relies on multiple forms of communication to communicate with patients, customers and clients. But whether you’re managing all this yourself or using a business phone and fax system, HIPAA compliance is something you will need to consider and take seriously.
Even if you have never faced HIPAA issues in the past, your fax system could become a problem if it’s not compliant. Indeed, any third-party software or service provider you use could non-compliant — and lead to any number of issues — if they themselves aren’t up with the latest regulations.
Below we look at how HIPAA handles faxing, along with the importance of ensuring your fax service provider is HIPAA compliant.
Does HIPAA Address Faxing?
Faxing has an intimate and long-standing relationship with the business world. Today, plenty of businesses still rely on faxing as part of their regular workflow. But, like other forms of business communication, what you send and receive via a fax machine may fall under the umbrella of HIPAA.
While there are no set guidelines that specifically refer to sending or receiving a fax, this transference of information should be treated as any other form of communication, especially if you’re sending or receiving a fax that contains sensitive health information.
That's because any information that’s faxed can easily be accessed by unauthorized parties. This is doubly true if you’re using traditional faxing methods. With that in mind, you need to have strict protocols in place for sending and receiving faxes that contain sensitive information.
At a minimum, your fax machine should be located in a secure location that can only be accessed by authorized personnel, fax senders and receivers should always be verified, and indiscreet cover letters should be used.
If any faxed information ends up in the wrong hands, then this could lead to a HIPAA violation. Which brings us to the importance of utilizing a HIPAA compliant fax service.
The Importance of a HIPAA-Compliant Fax Service
To help ensure HIPAA compliance — and improve the security and privacy of faxing — plenty of business owners have opted to use an internet-based or cloud-based faxing service. This eliminates the risk of any human error in either leaving a fax lying around or it accidentally being read by the wrong party.
Using a HIPAA-compliant fax service can offer you benefits like:
- Sensitive data encryption: With encryption, the data is secure through the transmission, so any sensitive data can’t be stolen.
- Secure cloud storage: Some providers offer secure storage for received and sent faxes, eliminating the need for paper, while preserving documents for future use.
- Fax transmission tracking: You’ll be able to see when the fax was sent, along with the time and dates for all faxes sent and received.
- Fax authorization: Only authorized parties will be able to view the fax, which prevents unwanted recipients from reading sensitive information.
Overall, using a HIPAA-compliant fax service will not only streamline your workflow, but it can also greatly help to reduce the risk of receiving a HIPAA fine or penalty.
Your first step in ensuring HIPAA compliance is upgrading to an internet fax provider. However, not all internet fax providers are created equal. In that vein, you’ll want a provider that takes compliance seriously. For total compliance, both you and any third-party vendors need to be compliant.
Choosing a HIPAA-Compliant Fax Service
Choosing the right fax service provider is important; after all, HIPAA compliance is a two-way street, so it's your responsibility to thoroughly vet any providers with whom you're working.
Beyond obvious HIPAA compliance protocols, keep an eye out for these features:
- End-to-end encryption: The means the fax transmission is encrypted on both ends (sending and receiving).
- Strong access controls: Users should be able to specify exactly to whom they are sending the fax — and who can access it once it's delivered.
- Internet security protocols: The capabilities of internet faxing function as they sound — by sending a fax over the internet. Beyond fax encryption, there should be security standards in place for securing the connection.
Keep in mind there are still technological limitations to internet faxing.
For example, if you're sending mostly large, multi-page documents, it's recommended you still keep a traditional fax machine and analog line. This will help to keep your efficiency and workflow in check. However, make sure this traditional fax machine is private and secure and that you have protocols for use that are in alignment with HIPAA privacy standards.
If your business still sends faxes, then you’ll need to ensure your faxing protocols follow HIPAA regulations. By upgrading to an internet fax service, you can improve your security and efficiency, all while improving your levels of 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 form online to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 Product Specialist.