HIPAA Applies to Your Outsourcing Call Center, Too
January 3, 2018
As mentioned in “Five Things to Check Before Outsourcing Your Healthcare Calls,” it’s critical to hire a call center that complies with HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Don’t assume every outsource healthcare call center is HIPAA compliant. Though they should be, not all are.
You know that HIPAA compliance is essential, and they should, too. But some call centers don’t care, while others don’t treat compliance seriously enough.
You are the covered entity (CE) and they are your business associate (BA), which means you are both responsible for keeping protected health information (PHI) secure. Therefore you must both fully comply with all relevant HIPAA regulations.
Some healthcare organizations (as the covered entity) may assume that as long as they are compliant in their practices, that’s all that matters. But as the CE, you are ultimately responsible for what your outsourced call center (your business associate) does. If they expose PHI, both you and they are subject to civil and criminal penalties, not to mention the hit to your reputation – even if it’s your call center’s fault.
Conversely some outsource call centers wrongly assume that they fall under the umbrella of their clients’ HIPAA compliance efforts. Again, this is just plain faulty reasoning. They may presume that if you are compliant and they work for you, that somehow they are magically covered. This is simply not true. If they mishandle PHI, they are at risk of civil and criminal penalties and so are you.
Part of your due-diligence in contracting with an outsource call center is to confirm their practices are in fact HIPAA compliant. Go onsite to verify this or hire a knowledgeable professional to do this for you. Then get it in writing. Next include a relevant clause confirming this in your contract with them. Though they can’t indemnify you if they mess up, having contractual language affirming their compliance should help you in recouping monetary damages should they falter.
However, the real advantage of including a HIPAA compliant statement in your agreement with them is that it reminds them in a tangible sense of their legal obligation to keep PHI secure at all times: in transmission, in storage, and in disposing of it.
This will not be a problem for any viable healthcare call center. And if HIPAA compliance catches them off guard, then they have just confirmed they aren’t fully prepared to handle your calls and caller data as required by law and as expected by best practices.
Ensure HIPAA compliance in your outsourcing call center before they take your first call, and you will avoid unpleasant and costly surprises later on.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry – and who provides a healthcare call center matchmaking service. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-901-7706.
Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.
Use an Answering Service to Cover Sick Days
Unlike a vacation, which employees schedule in advance, no one plans a sick day—or at least most people don’t. In most cases a sick day is not a p...
What Is a Call Center?
If your business operates outside the call center industry, you may have trouble answering this question of “What is a call center?” But it’s an...
Implement an Agent Development Program
Call center agents, your public-facing staff, are key to your call center’s effectiveness and fuel the success of the overall organization. Successf...
Agent Success Starts With Great Training
In the call center arena, your frontline people are key to success. This starts on day one of their employment in their initial training. Here are som...
How Not to Sell Your Telephone Answering Service
There are some commonsense steps to take when selling your telephone answering service, just as there are when selling anything. Common key elements i...
Why You Should Consolidate Siloed Call Centers
It’s likely your hospital system has at least one call center, a centralized place that handles calls. This may be for a department, a building, the...
Use an Answering Service to Schedule Appointments
Some businesses and professionals live or die by the number of appointments they have each day. For them, an appointment is a billable moment. A full ...
Use an Answering Service to Cover Staff Meetings
It’s a dilemma. You want all of your staff to attend your staff meetings, but that leaves no one left to answer the phone when it rings. After all, ...