HIPAA Compliant VoIP: Rules, Requirements and Consequences

rules, requirements and consequences of hipaa complaint voip

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Given the sensitive nature of patient information and the rise in health data breaches, understanding the requirements and compliance with the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is more crucial than ever.

HIPAA, a US federal law, was announced in 1996 and outlines the standard protocols for healthcare providers. HIPAA, alongside its Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) update in 2009, safeguards patient health information from unauthorized access and data breaches.

With the increase of breaches and attacks in hospitals, choosing a HIPAA-compliant phone system is essential for healthcare providers to ensure a secure communication platform and to avoid hefty fines and penalties for non-compliance.

What is a HIPAA-Compliant VoIP?

A HIPAA-compliant VoIP is a voice communication service that adheres to the strict guidelines and security standards outlined in the HIPAA policies. Any service providers, including VoIP providers, that offer services to the healthcare industry must comply with HIPAA regulations to protect the privacy of electronic protected health information (ePHI). This compliance ensures the secure exchange of information between covered entities and business associates.

The covered entities in the HIPAA are organizations or individuals that electronically handle PHI to maintain confidentiality. The entities are healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses.

General Information Covered in HIPAA

The HIPAA covers information related to ePHI and privacy regulations that are stored or transmitted by covered entities and business associates in different forms, including electronic, physical documents, or in-person conversations.

  • Patients personal details, including name, address, medical record number, health insurance number, laboratory test results, and diagnosis information.
  • Patient’s medical record from past, present, or future.
  • Administrative procedures related to healthcare services include code sets and electronic transactions.
  • Regulations regarding the usage of PHI.
  • Patient rights over their PHI, including account access and disclosure.
  • Different types of communications: SMS text messages, phone calls, faxes, voicemail messages, and video conferencing.

The purpose of general information covered in HIPAA is to set a regulatory standard to protect patient information.

General Rules of HIPAA Compliant Phone System

HIPAA mandates that phone system providers ensure secure healthcare communication by following privacy, security, and omnibus rules to protect ePHI. Several key considerations to ensure your phone system complies with HIPAA regulations include the implementation of user authentication to prevent unauthorized access to PHI, risk assessments, regular audits, and encryption of communication channels.

Rules of HIPAA Compliance

1. Privacy Rule

The privacy rule establishes regulations to safeguard individuals' health data and medical records maintained by healthcare organizations, affiliated partners, covered entities, and cloud storage providers. It limits access and disclosure of PHI while granting certain rights to patients over their health information.

2. Security Rule

The security rule mandates that the covered entities apply different physical, administrative, and technical measures to safeguard the confidentiality and availability of ePHI.

3. Access Control

Access controls limit access to PHI using a role-based concept. They grant permission to authorized individuals only after verifying authentications, such as user IDs, passwords, and multi-factor authentication (MFA).

4. Breach Notification Rule

The breach notification rule requires service providers to notify affected parties, including healthcare providers, covered entities, business associates, patients, the secretary of health & human services, and media (if necessary), during an unexpected ePHI breach.

5. Business Associate Agreements (BAAs)

BAAs are contractual agreements mandated between covered entities and third-party business associates. The contract outlines each party's responsibilities regarding the protection of PHI.

6. Omnibus Rule

The omnibus rule extends HIPAA compliance's flexibility by combining four aspects: business associate liability, breach notification, privacy changes, and penalties. This strengthens the security and privacy protection of ePHI.

Get a HIPAA-Compliant VoIP for Secure Communication

HIPAA-Compliant Phone Service Requirements

The OCR sets specific requirements, such as demanding contractual agreement and strict encryption, to ensure HIPAA compliance for phone service. Choosing a VoIP provider that meets HIPAA compliance standards is crucial for secure healthcare communication.

  • Signed Business Associate Agreements (BAAs): Formalize a partnership with a healthcare provider through a signed contract agreement that outlines each party's compliance with HIPAA regulations.
  • Encryption: Implement high-level encryption technology, such as transport layer security (TSL) and virtual private networks (VPN), to protect PHI and ePHI during information sharing or transmission.
  • Authentication: Assign unique caller/user IDs or passwords to every phone to limit access to authorized users only.
  • Secured Transmission and Storage: Securely store call recordings and voicemails to protect from potential breaches.
  • Access Controls: Minimize the disclosure of PHI to authorized personnel only.
  • Regular Audits and Assessments: Identify potential risks to PHI confidentiality and integrity.
  • Audit Logs: Track usage and access of ePHI.

💡Quick Tip:

With the proliferation of different VoIP phone systems in the market, selecting a system explicitly designed for healthcare settings may be challenging. Start by assessing your business needs and requirements. Then, prioritize a HIPAA-compliant VoIP service provider that offers features, including call encryption, automatic call logging, detailed audit logs, and secure messaging to ensure the protection of ePHI.

Challenges and Consequences of Non-HIPAA Compliance Phone in Business Operation

Failure to comply with HIPAA can result in service providers, covered entities, and their subcontractors facing severe penalties ranging from $100 to $1.5 million. These penalties can reach up to $1.5 million and higher annually. The highest penalty for HIPAA security and privacy violations was imposed on Memorial Healthcare System in Florida, amounting to $5.5 million.

1. Civil Monetary Penalties

Depending upon the level of negligence and tier of violation, you can be fined from $100 to $50,000 per violation.

  • Tier 1:
    Violation: Lack of knowledge 
    Penalties: $100 per violation and can increase up to $25,000 for repeated
    violations annually
  • Tier 2:
    Violation: Unforeseen violation despite taking reasonable precautions
    Penalties: $1,000 per violation and can increase up to $100,000 for repeated
    violations annually
  • Tier 3:
    Violation: Negligence but rectified within 30 days
    Penalties: Ranges from $10,000 - $50,000 per violation and can increase up to
    $1.5 million for repeated violations annually
  • Tier 4:
    Violation: Wilful negligence but hasn’t put any effort to rectify the violation within
    the specified time allotment
    Penalties: Minimum $50,000 per violation and can increase to $1.5 million for
    repeated violations annually



penalty tiers for hipaa violations


2. Criminal Penalties

Criminal penalties can be issued to individuals who knowingly abuse their authority to disclose or obtain PHI. Depending on the severity of the violence and tier, the charges may result in imprisonment.

  • Tier 1:
    Violation: Intentionally accessing and disclosing ePHI and PHI without any
    authority or permission
    Penalties: $50,000 fine and up to 1 year of imprisonment or both
  • Tier 2:
    Violation: Acquiring PHI through deceitful tactics and methods
    Penalties: $100,000 fine and up to 5 years of imprisonment or both
  • Tier 3:
    Violation:  Acquiring PHI for personal gains, such as financial profit, blackmail,
    and identity theft
    Penalties: $250,000 fine and up to 10 years of imprisonment or both

3. Reputational Damage

The non-HIPAA-compliant phone system in healthcare is prone to PHI breaches and vulnerability. This can cause reputational damage, tarnishing the organization’s image and disrupting trust among stakeholders and patients. Moreover, it can also result in severe loss of revenue and bankruptcy.

4. Poor Patient Experience

Non-HIPAA-compliant phone service makes patient reluctant to share their personal health information for fear of data breaches. This hinders the ability of healthcare professionals to diagnose the medical condition, which is essential to facilitate the treatment accurately.

Calilio for Your HealthCare Communication

HIPAA compliance is necessary for secure healthcare communication to avoid legal penalties and implications regarding non-compliance.

Calilio stands out as a reliable choice among HIPAA-compliant phone systems, strictly adhering to HIPAA guidelines and regulations. We offer comprehensive solutions prioritizing compliance and security to meet the unique requirements of healthcare settings. Healthcare providers can leverage robust encryption and access control to ensure the integrity and confidentiality of ePHI and PHI. These features help to safeguard and maintain trust and sensitive data from unauthorized disclosure and access.

Boost Your Medical Team’s Performance with the Ultimate Communication Solutions

HIPAA Compliance Frequently Asked Questions

What industries support HIPPA compliance?

Industries supporting HIPPA compliance include healthcare, law firms, finance & insurance, pharmaceutical, medical billing, and any other business that handles PHI.

Is HIPAA-compliant video conferencing possible?

HIPAA-compliant video conferencing is possible on different platforms. They offer encryptions to secure communication channels and protect ePHI.

Does HIPAA guidelines ensure the security of ePHI?

HIPAA guidelines ensure the security of ePHI by providing a framework for safeguarding through access controls, appropriate administration, encryption, and other security measures.

How can you tell whether you violate any HIPAA regulations?

You can tell whether you violate any HIPAA regulations by identifying deficiencies and gaps through compliance audits and regular risk assessments.

What VoIP features don’t meet HIPAA guidelines?

VoIP features that don’t meet HIPAA guidelines include voicemail transcriptions, visual voicemail, and voicemail-to-email attachments.

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