Good Practice Management Tips: How to Ensure Your Faxes Are HIPAA Compliant

Quality healthcare is rooted in the collaboration between physicians — working together in the best interest of the patient. This means that medical practices need to focus their attention on reliable practice management processes to exchange clinical data. But electronic faxes need to be HIPAA compliant and abide by patient privacy laws at all times. How do you do that?

Our medical landscape is ever-evolving and improving, continuously making amendments for the good of the patient. This includes the way care is administered and how offices work together to provide patient care as an overall product — not by one but by all providers involved in the patient’s care.

A key factor in this successful collaboration is being respectful of the patient’s health record and personal data. Therefore, medical practices have to ensure their faxes are HIPAA compliant and follow all requirements and regulations set forth in regard to patient privacy.

 

 

HIPAA Compliant Clinical Data: What Does That Mean?

HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was signed into effect in 1996. It’s a set of federal regulatory standards implemented to help manage protected health information (PHI) on a national level — mainly as a safeguard from fraud and as a guide to how modern health information should be used.

HIPAA compliance further involves adherence to the Security Rule — detailing how health information including patient identifiers should be handled by medical practices and healthcare organizations.

Whether this applies to collecting, storing, receiving, or exchanging clinical information, facilities are required to safeguard patient data from threats while maintaining its integrity and confidentiality at the same time.

 

 

Why Are (Electronic) Faxes Even Important in Healthcare?

Exchanging clinical data between providers is essential in providing effective care to your patients. There are countless reasons why your medical practice should establish a secure and efficient way to send faxes electronically and share data in a HIPAA compliant fashion.

(1) You Need Clinical Data for Patient Care

The most fundamental reason for safe electronic fax exchanges between medical offices is that they’re needed to administer care and treat patients. 

If your patient has a kidney stone and an ultrasound has been administered at the local hospital, records need to be forwarded to the patient’s treating urologist. Much of the treatment following the patient’s hospital visit will rely on data collected during the ultrasound. 

It’s not uncommon that a facility renders only specific services and does not provide certain screenings, lab work, and imagery at the same time — making a constant flow of information between medical practices a necessity to provide basic care.

(2) Complete Records Fill Gaps

While collaboration between medical practices is important in providing care, there is more to sending faxes electronically and sharing data with other providers.

Even when records are not critical in treating a specific complaint, they tend to fill gaps in the patient’s medical history and offer answers to many lingering questions. 

As a provider, you will greatly benefit from having clinical information about your patient that details their health state from another perspective and missing time frames. This gives clinicians a much broader view and a better grasp of where the patient stands — allowing them to provide more customized treatments and higher-quality care.

(3) Prompt Exchanges Increase Efficiency

Another absolutely critical aspect of electronic faxes and the quick availability of medical records is that with all relevant information at your fingertips, you can avoid ordering unnecessary redundant tests — saving our healthcare system valuable healthcare dollars, including saving your patient and her insurance carrier time and money.

Good practice management will also offer you a grand overview of your patient’s health status, so you’ll be able to eliminate unnecessary delays. This means you can operate as efficiently as possible and administer treatment promptly.

This type of efficiency helps both, your internal process and patient satisfaction, and enhances health outcomes — allowing you to go from providing average care to superb patient care.

 

Uh-Oh — What Happens When Data is not HIPAA Compliant?

As regulatory and governing bodies are eagerly enforcing compliance with HIPAA and privacy laws, failure to comply can result in serious consequences — which is why knowing the details surrounding these privacy laws is a pivotal component of successful practice management.

(1) Patient Privacy Violations

Patients entrust their healthcare providers with their personal and clinical information. Medical practices must, therefore, put measures into place that will safeguard this information. In a digital age, this pertains to cybersecurity, in particular, and requires implementing ways to protect PHI from unauthorized access.

A potential breach can lead to patient information becoming exposed and patient privacy being violated — active steps must be taken and implemented to avoid such an outcome.

(2) Lack of Trust 

With patient information out in the open and data integrity compromised, your patients will quickly lose trust in your organization — which can be detrimental to your medical practice.

Losing trust means your patient base will dwindle down in no time while getting new patients through the door remains difficult. Determining the best practice management approach is, therefore, imperative in laying a solid foundation that adheres to every aspect of HIPAA. 

(3) Legal & Financial Penalties

HIPAA is enforced by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and groups violations into varying degrees of severity. Financial penalties can go up to $ 50,000 per violation¹ — meaning settlements for breaches can come out to be millions of dollars.

But that’s not all. If data is not HIPAA compliant, depending on the intent and whether or not the crime was committed knowingly, a violation can lead to up to 10 years in prison¹. Patients whose data has been exposed can further file individual civil lawsuits against the entity where the breach happened.

 

How Can You Be Proactive & Ensure Your Fax Process is HIPAA Compliant?

Your practice management is imperative in ensuring patient privacy is protected and data remains HIPAA compliant. Here are just a few things you can do¹:

  1. Know exactly what type of information falls under PHI
  2. Implement safeguards that adhere to HIPAA requirements
  3. Adopt management practices and policies that use HIPAA as a foundation
  4. Train your staff on the details of HIPAA compliance
  5. Name a Privacy and Security Officer at your medical practice
  6. Respond quickly to emerging privacy issues
  7. Remain clear communication with staff and share easy ways for reporting violations

Set your medical practice up for success by implementing these steps and making HIPAA compliance a foundation for your organization.

 

HIPAA Compliant Data Exchange with Vivlio Health

Exchanging data between medical practices is a significant aspect of providing quality patient care. At the same time, it’s a critical component of keeping clinical information HIPAA compliant and respecting patient privacy.

Vivlio Health is a cloud-based platform that can help you access your patient’s medical records and ensure HIPAA requirements are met. We are committed to protecting all the patient health information we’re entrusted with and maintain strict safeguards and rigorous training practices.

Our platform allows you to quickly locate and safely extract clinical information that’s relevant to your patient. We are a HIPAA-certified software solution that fully complies with HITRUST and all applicable federal and state regulations — so you have access to your patient’s medical records and keep your peace of mind.

Sign up for a demo to learn more about Vivlio Health. Just like your patient’s privacy is important to you, it is to us as well. Let’s work together and make healthcare data just a little bit safer.

 

References:
  1. “What are the Penalties for HIPAA Violations? 2023 Update.” The HIPAA Journal, https://www.hipaajournal.com/what-are-the-penalties-for-hipaa-violations-7096/. Accessed 28 August 2023.