What is HIPAA and How It Affects Healthcare Communication?

Find yourself wondering what is HIPAA? Or what does HIPAA stand for? The HIPAA or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act helps to organize and structure rules and regulations regarding online information transfer pertaining to healthcare organizations. We frequently hear about patient data breaches and malware, and a body like HIPAA works to keep healthcare institutions and their patients safe by structuring their institutions in safer ways such as:

  • Reducing data breaches by setting proper digital standards
  • Bringing down the administrative burden of healthcare organizations by modernizing healthcare operations
  • Safeguarding the integrity of financial transactions

The HIPAA Act was formed on August 21, 1996, signed into law by then-president Bill Clinton. It is also known as Public Law 104-191. The HIPAA started out with two major goals—the first was to maintain health insurance coverage for workers who change or lose their jobs. The second part was to protect patient data from unauthorized access. The digital security criterions were a part of the law but didn’t take center stage until the rise of internet and powerful computing machines.

Between 2009 and 2017, there were 2,181 cases of healthcare data breaches in the United States. This resulted in 176,709,305 healthcare records exposed to prying eyes. The importance of digital privacy and security rules could not be emphasized enough in the wake of such events.

According to the HIPAA definition, the following information is considered to the Protected Health Information or PHI of a patient.

  • Name, Address, Social Security Number, and Birth Date
  • Documents or information regarding their mental or physical health
  • The type of treatment or care provided to the patient
  • Payment or account details of the patient.
  • Any type of information that reveals the identity of the patient.

Hence, HIPAA made sure that every single parameter is covered when it came to structuring laws that pertain to digital security. Leaking or gaining access to medical information of others has severe consequences as it leads to malicious practices that may endanger the livelihood of many.

In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act extended HIPAA’s requirements and included business associates of healthcare organizations within the HIPAA security and breach notification rules. They qualified a "business associate" as any service provider who has access to the PHI of the patient.

This stringent law had a fair share of impact on cloud adoption as well. With the modern healthcare establishments adopting cloud as the go-to method for storing data, HIPAA provides a set of pre-requisites that every healthcare service provider should maintain in order to keep the patient information secure.

The HIPAA definition states that if a healthcare organization chooses to store files on the cloud, the cloud service provider becomes a business associate of the said healthcare organization. The cloud service provider must also meet the HIPAA guidelines. With penalty charges of up to $50,000 per violation, failing to remain HIPAA compliant can prove extremely costly to healthcare organizations.

HIPAA Compliant Cloud Phone Solutions - Why They Matter

HIPAA also has some strict guidelines for Cloud Phone Systems that are usually adopted by healthcare organizations to improve efficiency, quality and cost savings.

Bear in mind, it's not easy to meet HIPAA guidelines, and this is the reason why only a few VoIP providers have ventured far enough to offer cloud phone services to healthcare organizations.

A HIPAA compliant VoIP provider will have the following safety standards in place;

  • Intuitive controls
  • Strict control over access
  • Authentication methods
  • Audit tools
  • Secure transmission of info
  • Security management

The VoIP provider will also become a business partner to the healthcare organization for offering service, and they are required to sign the Business Associate Contract (BAAs).

There are many advantages in choosing VoIP technology over regular phone systems, and it greatly increases the overall efficiency of the healthcare organization including:

  • End-to-end encryption
  • Higher audio and video quality
  • Real-time collaboration between organizations
  • Voicemail to email link
  • Unlimited voice facility

Nevertheless, before choosing a cloud service provider, healthcare service providers must ensure that their operations are compliant with the guidelines and rules of HIPAA, a greater emphasis being end-to-end encryption.

8x8 Inc. is a pioneer in modern cloud communication systems. Using the singular platform methodology, 8x8 ties its services under one banner, making it easier for businesses to use them. With 8x8, healthcare organizations can get communication solutions tailored to different business classes.

Since 8x8 communication services are fully compliant with HIPAA, there is no question of security or compatibility issues. Features like Remote Collaboration make the service even more utilitarian. The added layers of security further ensure the integrity and safety of PHIs. The services offered by 8x8 are aimed at solving the dilemmas faced by patients and healthcare organizations.

HIPAA Is All About Protecting the Patient's Critical Information

Now that you know what HIPAA stands for, it's important to remember that the overall objective of HIPAA is to protect sensitive patient information. It necessitates healthcare service providers to adopt a secure information exchange within the organizations as well as with the business associates that have access to patient’s data. Secure healthcare communication is a critical component that can keep the entire healthcare ecosystem from being exposed to anyone who shouldn't be informed about a patient's information.

In order to remain secure and avoid penalties resulting from HIPAA violations, healthcare service providers must centralize their focus by using a secure cloud communication system.

When it comes to security, 8x8 provides reliable and HIPAA 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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