HIPAA-compliant fax services are a must for any organization or body that interacts with PHI. This also means third-party vendors or re-sellers could have access to PHI, not necessarily for their own daily, mission-critical operations, but because the nature of their work puts them in such a position.
The following three types of organizations should review their current faxing practices and infrastructure to see if they could benefit from cloud-based PHI partnerships.
Healthcare Independent Software Vendors (ISVs)
Independent software vendors package products for medical institutions’ administrative ease, from clinics and hospitals to private practices. They allow for doctors, nurses and office support staff to more readily perform the everyday administrative work that goes with running such an institution, from accounting and finance tasks to managing patients’ medical data, and faxing a patient’s chart over to a referral doctor.
Cloud-based faxing applications are attractive to ISVs because it allows these vendors to package a more dynamic and appealing product. This is because they enable their product to send and receive healthcare documents via fax from within the application. When a clinic’s personnel can log onto one computer program to perform a variety of tasks, their workflows are made fundamentally easier.
A handful of significant healthcare independent software systems are on the market today that benefit from HIPAA-compliant fax service integration, including:
- Electronic Health Record (EHR) Software: EHR programs are standard across today’s medical institutions. Indeed, not having one in your hospital or clinic could spell government penalties. This is because EHR software tends to cover all the processes that make a medical institution operate successfully and on-par with industry standards. With cloud-based faxing implemented into EHR systems, everything from billing and ordering tests and prescriptions to communicating with referral doctors is streamlined.
- Healthcare Practice Management (PM) Software: Similar to EHR systems, healthcare-specific practice management systems helps medical offices run smoothly. It tends to assist less with the healthcare-technical side of operations, though, and more with the business. It helps with building and patient processing operations, such as scheduling visits or running an insurance eligibility test. It can also make tasks like medical claims and reimbursements far easier. When combined with cloud-based faxing, organizations have a more thorough workflow that directly increases its ability to manage and process patient needs.
- Radiology Imaging System (RIS) Software: RIS software is an image-centric platform to manage medical imagery and its associated patient data. While most other ISV’s products are inherently text and program-based, an RIS application allows for deeper management of things like radiology imaging orders, scans and image archives. Like other programs, these images can be turned into reports and charts for more comprehensive patient files.
- Medical Billing Software: As the name suggests, medical billing software houses the often-complicated and multi-step process of healthcare and insurance billing. Without medical billing software, an office would be stymied by communicating with insurance companies and patients alike on various payment matters. A cloud-based fax system set up within billing software only helps amplify these operations, turning one of the most challenging facets of the healthcare system into a single, smooth electronic transaction.
- Other Healthcare-Related Programs and Applications: The benefits of having even a basic faxing-platform integration directly speeds up all processes in administrative work. Combined with the cloud-based storage and a partnered data center, offices quickly find they have less on their plates to manage while improving their workflows and HIPAA compliance strategies.
Healthcare Service Organizations
From hospitals and clinics to specialized care centers and assisted-living facilities, it falls on medical institutions themselves to enact compliant practices and technological systems. While these organizations often partner with other companies or vendors to do so, the accountability ultimately rests on them.
Healthcare service organizations that don’t follow HIPAA’s electronic communication and e-PHI transfers could face the following penalties:
- Did-Not-Know or Reasonable Cause Fines: $100 to $50,000, depending on the severity of their negligence and how many violation incidents have occurred.
- Willful Neglect Fines: HIPAA violations that were identified and corrected but caused serious ramifications, such as data breaches, face fines that start at $10,000. Willful-neglected incompliance that was not corrected internally and identified by an audit begins in the $50,000 and go all the way up to multimillion-dollar sanctions.
- Disciplinary Actions or Termination: In cases of employee-data mismanagement where specific individuals have been identified as the source of incompliance, disciplinary measures may take place. If the incompliance oversights were serious enough, termination would occur.
- Criminal Prosecution: Healthcare organizations deemed to knowingly and repeatedly breach HIPAA can be reported to the Department of Justice, who in turn can press criminal charges based on the levels of pretense or malicious intent.
A HIPAA-compliant fax service alleviates compliance concerns at one of the most basic functions of a healthcare service organization. Something as simple as faxing doesn’t need to cause compliance headaches. Whether an organization is moving away from manually faxes, looking to strengthen their PHI-data storage or lacking a comprehensive new faxing solution altogether, cloud-based services can deliver.
IT Service Providers
IT service providers work with healthcare organizations as reseller partners. They have a distinct place in the industry, usually partnering as an outsourced IT management or data-storage vendor but looking to bolster their service offerings.
These providers already have established relationships with their healthcare clients. They know about niche operations that a care facility or medical center may not have the resources to dedicate to and can complement that knowledge with something as fundamental as cloud fax services.
IT service providers will often resell internet-based software as part of their suites. They’ll also help install the software into their client’s current PC and IT systems using application program interface (API) best practices. This strengthens its usability and ensuring their clients don’t have to face long system-training downtimes. These sorts of partnerships also come with business associate agreements, mandated by HIPAA as an assurance that all parties with access to PHI are following Title II regulations and protecting patient information. These are essential documents that exist between healthcare providers and their third-party vendors, and one an institution should never ignore.
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