One of the most important issues in the healthcare industry today is security. Specifically, this relates to the security of transmitting personally sensitive data and information. Much of this discussion and debate has now been turning toward the issue of sending such information over fax machines and telephone lines. If you are involved in the healthcare industry, this is not something that can be ignored. You need to understand ways to secure this data in order to transmit it over a fax machine.
Security Breaches With Traditional Faxing:
Unfortunately, fax machines do have a number of potential security breaches. Everyone has heard about all the breaches of big companies and their computer networks, yet few seem to pay much attention to securing their fax transmissions. One of these breaches is simply human error. Sometimes, the number is entered wrong and the fax transmission ends up going to an unintended destination. This same result can also occur due to technical reasons or issues (poor communication lines, incompatible equipment, etc…). Not to mention that the fax lies on the fax machine open for everyone to see until it is retrieved and dealt with.
One of the first and most basics ways to secure your faxes is to establish solid use policies. For example, you might have a policy of two people verifying that the proper number has been entered and that the machine is regularly checked and maintained. Another thing that you can do is to ensure that your fax machine or faxing service uses data encryption. This may also entail the use of an email to fax machine protocol, which can enhance security if it is combined with a solid encryption protocol like PGP.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, has established a number of rules and regulations for the disclosure of protected health information. These are applicable primarily to clearing houses, employer sponsored health plans, insurance companies, and medical providers. Although this should certainly not be construed as legal advice, you need to do everything within your power to ensure compliance with all HIPAA rules, especially the Security Standard Final Rule.
This rule is intended to ensure that all covered entities and Business Associates (businesses and other groups that are associated with one of the covered entities listed above) are able to ‘create, receive, maintain, or transmit’ any personally sensitive health information. Essentially, you will need to do everything possible in order to safeguard the confidentiality and integrity of the information that is being processed and/or sent.
Having A Business Associate Agreement:
A big piece of this rule is that the business or other groups involved in transmitting health information through fax and fax services must have a Business Associate Agreement with the healthcare or medical entity that they have become associated with. This is also an extra guarantee or certification that both ends of the transmission have taken steps to comply with all rules and security standards. According to the rules, satisfactory assurances of proper safeguards must be obtained prior to the beginning of a BAA arrangement.
Security is become a more and more serious issue in regards to the transmission of sensitive personal health information. It is critical that your business takes the proper steps to ensure all reasonable safeguards and security measures are implemented and then followed. One of the ways to do this is by using the services of a secure internet faxing provider that has already satisfied all of these HIPAA compliance regulations.
Jimmy William has been an author for SRFax for 25 years. SRFax provides secure internet faxing all over North America. You can follow SR Fax’s personal and business ramblings at @SRFax.