Communications in Healthcare: Best Practices
With the increased push for convenience from patients and improved clinical and financial outcomes from payers, it is clear that healthcare will be the next frontier for omni-channel customer experiences.
The elephant in the room is how to maintain patient privacy and adhere to the rules governing PHI (protected health information). Some see this as a gigantic hurdle to adopting a truly omni-channel strategy—but it doesn’t need to be.
HIPAA, the HITECH Act and various HHS regulations, are designed to protect PHI and regulate how covered entities and business associates use or disclose PHI.
Compliance and Communication
Outlining specific options, like whether a provider can leave a detailed message on a patient’s voicemail or share information with a designated family member, helps clarify how the covered entity will protect PHI and engage patients outside their walls. Appointment reminders are a great example of how opening this channel of communication can improve health outcomes and save money.
According to Health Management Technology, no show rates for healthcare appointments are 30% nationwide. Those missed appointments cost the U.S. healthcare system nearly $150 billion each year, and every unused appointment slot can cost a physician’s practice upwards of $200. Meanwhile, approximately 62% of smartphone users have used their phones to look up health or medical information—sending appointment reminders to patients via their preferred method of communication could reduce financial costs and negative clinical outcomes associated with missed appointments.
What the Rules Say
The HIPAA Conduit Exception Rule allows HIPAA covered entities to conduct business with certain types of vendors without a business associate agreement.
For example, mail carriers and friendly neighborhood UPS drivers don’t have access to PHI, nor do they retain a copy of the information—they are simply conduits transmitting information from point A to point B.
Bringing It Together
HIPAA Compliance might seem like a major obstacle in bringing communications technology to healthcare, which is why it is important to choose an experienced provider.
HIPAA regulations are in place to prevent PHI from falling into the wrong hands. Following these rules and regulations can not only protect patient privacy, but protect covered entities and business associates from litigation and severe fines.
Read for Part 2 of our mini series on navigating communications in healthcare, where we will focus on best practices for utilizing text messaging and key considerations when choosing a provider.
Check out our whole series:
- Part 1: HIPAA, BAA, and Conduit Exception
- Part 2: HIPAA Compliance and SMS Texting: What You Need to Know
- Part 3: HIPAA, Telecommunications Redundancy, & Conduit Exception
Disclaimer: The information provided in this document does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information is for general informational purposes only.
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