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Why secure communications should be a part of the HIPAA compliance strategy

Perry Price, XXX
Perry Price, Founder and President, Revation Systems

With the rise in attacks across the healthcare industry, it is critical for organizations to reassess the measures that are being taken to remain compliant. Although the fear of having private health information (PHI) exposed is increasing, there are several steps that can be taken to ensure that confidential patient data is secure.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is continuing to conduct Phase 2 of its HIPAA audit program to “uncover promising practices, or reasons health information breaches are occurring.” The goal of the OCR audits is to “improve the privacy and security of health records.”

While OCR’s HIPAA audit program may seem intimidating on the surface, there are ways for healthcare organizations to ensure that they are remaining compliant with HIPAA procedures, thereby avoiding any repercussions of violations detected in audits.

One of the best tools to improve HIPAA compliance is secure communications, as the data encryption from this type of platform helps eliminate the likelihood of a breach. More specifically, secure cloud-based communications platforms can help organizations with HIPAA compliance because they provide a software solution that eradicates the risk involved with maintaining paper records and provide more in-depth information about all communications touchpoints.

Secure communications platforms help organizations stay HIPAA compliant

There are several scenarios within healthcare organizations that demonstrate how secure communications platforms are the most effective preventive measure that can be taken to avoid a HIPAA violation.

Take a hospital, for example, that has traditionally used physical copies of confidential patient health information for its records. In this case, the data is vulnerable to being stolen, misplaced or breached as it is circulating throughout the hospital and many employees have access to it. This is why, instead of patients submitting paper copies to be filed away, it is better for the organization to submit private information to a secure communications system. By using this method to protect data, the organization can completely avoid the risks of a physical breach — since even having access to computers that are linked to the system, users would be required to log in.

Beyond the storage of information, these types of communications systems can also help prevent human error. When all employee communications (both external and internal) are recorded, it becomes easier and faster to identify and detect potential breaches — as all points of access are stored in one place. For example, if a breach is detected from an external conversation, an administrator can review that conversation to see if there is information that can be recovered to resolve the issue.

Along with helping organizations catch breaches before they escalate into larger issues, these platforms can also be used to help prevent breaches from happening altogether, as they provide agents with more detailed information on inbound calls as they are coming in. For instance, when a hospital is using a secure communications solution within its organization, all employees who are accepting calls and/or chat sessions are given detailed information about the call.

With this type of technology in-hand and a better understanding of the communications that are occurring, it is easier to prevent conversations with hackers from escalating into data breaches.

Implementing secure communications in hospitals

Secure communications systems can be quickly and easily implemented in hospitals. Since this type of system is delivered via the cloud, there is no need to install hardware or involve IT staff members. By eliminating any hardware that is needed to install a solution, secure communications systems can significantly lower operating costs, eliminate capital expenditures and deploy quickly.

Additionally, as security issues are at the core of potential violations, cloud structures that are not based on older architecture systems are easier to update with new software patches — rather than needing to install new hardware or manually update unsupported systems. The software itself is crucial to think about for avoiding security breaches.

With the significant preventive measures that secure communications systems provide organizations for avoiding the risk of HIPAA violations, it is clear that these types of systems are the next step in the evolution of protecting patient information.

While HIPAA audits will only continue to increase both in depth and in breadth, secure communications will, consequently, become a largely significant solution for healthcare organizations. By securing the communications that occur within the hospital system, organizations can not only avoid the threat and repercussions of finding a HIPAA violation during an audit, but also, more importantly, they can better protect private patient information.