The healthcare industry offers a number of opportunities for the virtual call center, as long as compliance is a top priority. HIPAA guidelines are very specific and a failure to follow along can put a company at risk of significant fines. Even businesses that previously didn’t have issues with HIPAA are finding themselves subject to new rules or at risk due to noncompliance by business partners.
This topic was the focus of a recent 8x8 blog. The virtual call center solutions provider highlighted the fact that new regulations now apply to all kinds of businesses that work with the medical industry. The guidelines affect any business that processes, stores or transmits protected health information directly or on behalf of an entity covered by HIPAA.
Furthermore, companies that create, receive, maintain and transmit health information for businesses governed by HIPAA are also subject to the new regulations. Thousands of businesses offering general IT, telecom providers and companies delivering other kinds of services that once believed they didn’t have to worry about HIPAA are now falling under the broadening scope of its laws. Any misunderstandings or accidental breeches of compliance with HIPAA are expensive, putting a company in a position where fines reach into the millions.
For the HIPAA-regulated company searching for third-party partners, a rigorous due diligence process is necessary to maintain compliance. The virtual call center provider, for instance, must demonstrate compliance by not only completing the extensive, ongoing process with HIPAA itself, but the provider must also verify compliance among its own chain of subcontractors.
Part of this step is providing proof that HIPAA compliance has been assessed by an independent expert. This process often has more credibility with regulators than a simple internal assessment that could have blind spots. A business associate agreement that demonstrates the company’s willingness to stand behind its compliance is an even more powerful tool. If a new line of service is wanted, the provider should be able to configure it to be HIPAA compliant. If not, it’s a risk.
Virtual call centers may be able to accommodate particular configurations to ensure compliance or recommend experts to help in the process if needed. Much of this compliance includes encryption capabilities for data at rest and data in motion. Information transmitted across networks, phone lines or the public Internet is at risk, especially if it isn’t encrypted. It’s important to ask for both forms, as not all service providers can accommodate encryption needs.
HIPAA regulations can be intimidating, especially for the smaller company without the means to manage a compliance department or even a full-time compliance officer. Partnering with a proven provider with experience in HIPAA with a compliant solution is a great way to bridge the gap and drive comfortable success.
Edited by Alisen Downey