As a medical practice, it’s important that you keep your office and patients protected.

The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in 1996 by Congress in order to protect patient information and keep medical practices in check when it comes to privacy. It also stipulates that any third-party that a medical practice uses for services should adhere to the same guidelines.

Make sure your medical answering service is fully HIPAA-compliant

That’s why it’s so important that you make sure your medical answering service is HIPAA-compliant before you sign a contract and put your patients – and your office – at risk.

Any business that involves working with patient health information, including information over the phone, must be HIPAA-compliant. And yet, not all medical answering services are HIPAA-compliant – so be sure you know what you’re looking for when you choose a service for your medical practice.

Here are some important questions to ask any medical answering service you are considering:

Do your customer service representatives go through a training program that addressed HIPAA?

Any virtual receptionist that will be handling your calls should be trained, and retrained, on a regular basis in order to follow HIPAA guidelines. You are putting your practice’s liability in their hands and you need to be sure they are conducting calls properly.

What are your protocols for handling HIPAA updates and new regulations?

The HIPAA has undergone frequent updates due to the changing nature of technology in the past 18+ years. Obviously, there were some major changes to the way that information is shared today versus when the law was established. You – and your medical answering service – should expect changes in the future. The vendor you work with should have protocols set up to keep agents up to date on the rules and regulations.

What disaster security and recovery systems do you have in place to protect patient information?

Whether it’s a power outage or a threat from online hackers, you need to know that your patient information will stay secure no matter what the circumstances may be. Any medical answering service you are considering should have systems in place to deal with these threats.

How are your agents trained to handle sensitive patient requests and information?

While this isn’t HIPAA-specific, it’s part of what every good medical answering service should offer. The virtual receptionists for your medical practice may be receiving sensitive patient information, sometimes during emergency situations. It’s imperative that they treat these calls with the respect and attention they deserve. If possible, ask if the medical answering service can let you listen to a sample call or speak with your potential virtual receptionist directly.

With these key questions, you can ensure that your medical answering service understands and adheres to the HIPAA guidelines. Don’t put your practice or your patients at risk!