HIPAA Compliant Fax

Navigating healthcare legislature sometimes feels like a full-time job. Healthcare providers are responsible for achieving interoperability with other providers to benefit their patients, but they’re also responsible for protecting patient privacy. 

HIPAA is designed to standardize this process. But when it comes to working with technology, HIPAA can feel a bit murky. HIPAA-compliant fax systems simplify this problem, enabling interoperability without jeopardizing HIPAA standards. 

What Is HIPAA?

HIPAA is an acronym that stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It’s one of several pieces of legislation throughout United States history that governs how medical records and other protected health information are communicated. There are three main rules outlined in HIPAA: the privacy rule, the security rule, and the breach notification rule. 

  • The privacy rule sets standards for which personal healthcare information is protected and when that information can be shared. It outlines which information should be protected by HIPAA, how organizations can use or share that information, and what rights patients have over their personal information. 
  • The security rule outlines which types of organizations need to follow HIPAA guidelines, which policies and procedures they need to set to protect patient data, and which healthcare information is protected by HIPAA. 
  • The breach notification rule requires providers to report any HIPAA breaches to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as quickly as possible. This rule outlines how quickly providers need to make reports and what information needs to be included in those reports.

HIPAA regulations are designed to protect patient privacy. The goal of these regulations is to help healthcare providers understand how to protect data. Ultimately, this helps both patients and providers. Patients know that their information is protected, which may make them more likely to divulge information honestly to their healthcare providers. Providers, in turn, can act on the most accurate information, allowing them to provide the highest level of care to their patients. 

Beyond the ethical reasons for following HIPAA regulations, healthcare organizations are legally required to adhere to HIPAA guidelines. Breaches of HIPAA protocols are not only prohibited but can also carry heavy penalties for healthcare providers. Willfully violating HIPAA protocols can lead to fines of up to $100,000 and up to five years in prison. Even if a data breach wasn’t caused by willful negligence, providers can still face fines of hundreds or even thousands of dollars depending on how egregious the error was.

What Are Compliant Digital Faxes?

Traditional faxes involve manual processes with a limited level of security. Incoming faxes aren’t announced and may sit in printers for an indeterminate period of time, allowing anyone near the fax machine to access faxed medical records. This traditional faxing process is far from HIPAA-compliant and can allow unauthorized parties to view private medical information. 

Compliant digital faxes, also known as HIPAA-compliant faxes, are online faxing solutions with increased security features designed to prevent this from happening. HIPAA-compliant faxes add an additional layer of security to traditional fax transmissions which limit data breaches and ensure the secure transmission of protected medical data. 

Healthcare providers that intend to use online fax services are responsible for implementing appropriate security measures to protect their fax documents. Finding a secure fax service like Consensus allows for better care coordination than traditional digital fax machines without sacrificing the convenience and security of other faxing solutions.

Digital Faxing HIPAA Regulations

The entire point of a HIPAA-compliant digital faxing service is to send secure online faxes while following all the rules and regulations outlined in HIPAA. This includes the main three HIPAA rules — the privacy rule, the security rule, and the breach notification rule — outlined above.

Any online fax service claiming to be HIPAA compliant needs to understand these rules and how they apply to online faxes. This includes encrypting data to protect it from prying eyes, identifying authorized users so that information can be accessed by the correct parties, tracking faxes so that both patients and providers know where information is being stored at all times, and having strategies in place for reporting any security breaches.

Encryption of PHI

PHI is an acronym that stands for Personal Healthcare Information. This is the information that HIPAA is specifically designed to regulate and protect. 

One of the top stipulations of HIPAA is that any PHI that’s transmitted electronically must be encrypted to prevent unauthorized parties from accessing the information. This means that, at a minimum, digital fax machines must be able to encrypt PHI if you plan to use them for transmitting healthcare information. 

Consensus uses the most advanced data encryption protocols to ensure PHI never falls into the wrong hands. Unlike some providers that claim to provide HIPAA-compliant faxes, Consensus has partnered with eFax to encrypt data using TLS. Without TLS, faxes could be intercepted and read by unauthorized parties. 

Consensus’s partnership with eFax encrypts PHI both while it’s in transit and while it’s waiting to be received, while our secure storage keeps data protected while it’s on the cloud, ensuring that only authorized parties can receive transmitted faxes. This means that hackers can’t locate the information through any backdoor openings; PHI is protected at every stage of transmission. 

Authorized Recipients

HIPAA requires digital transmissions to have a process in place for authorized recipients. These recipients should be able to provide some sort of digital proof of identification, such as digital signatures, so that they can access the information they’ve been sent. 

Essentially, this means that once you’ve encrypted your PHI, you need technical measures in place to unencrypt that information for the appropriate receiving party. These technical measures need to be designed so that the right people can access information at the touch of a button while the wrong people can never access that information. 

Consensus provides ID proofing for each of the nearly 2 million providers on our network. This level of security ensures that only authorized recipients can access secure medical data. PHI can move seamlessly between medical providers, enabling the safe sharing of information for medical purposes without violating any HIPAA protocols. 

Consensus also takes care that any receiving patients are authorized to receive specified documents before they ever open new faxes. 

Digital Fax Tracking

Both the sending party and the receiving party should know where a digital fax is at all times. This isn’t just faxing best practices; it’s an actual requirement for healthcare providers to be considered HIPAA compliant. Patients are entitled to know who has access to their medical records and which PHI has been shared with which parties. This means that at any given moment, providers should be able to look and see exactly where PHI faxes reside. 

Consensus provides full audit trails for every fax sent or received through the Consensus portal. Not only can providers check where PHIs are at any moment, but they can also see a trail after the fact, which allows them to answer questions about where PHI has been in the past. 

The best part of Consensus’s audit trail process is that this digital fax tracking happens whether you send your fax from a desktop, a laptop, or even a mobile phone. Secure, HIPAA-compliant faxing is significantly more convenient with a digital faxing solution that works for you.

Data Breach Regulations

Although healthcare providers are responsible for limiting data breaches and protecting PHI as much as possible, HIPAA regulations also require healthcare providers to have protocols in place in case there is ever a data breach. More specifically, healthcare providers are required to report data breaches to the Department of Health and Human Services. This is true even if the data breach was accidental or could not have been prevented by the healthcare provider. 

A data breach could include: 

  • Sending a digital fax to the wrong party
  • Including another patient’s file when you send a fax
  • Security breaches, such as someone hacking into your system

One of the top reasons to choose HIPAA-compliant fax over encrypted email is that, unlike faxes, emails can still be hacked. This means that just by choosing HIPAA-compliant fax over encrypted email, healthcare providers can stay ahead of data breaches and limit their use of data breach regulations. 

Consensus also has a strict code of conduct to limit potential data breaches. Each vendor we work with is required to have a comprehensive security program, risk management program, and data protection compliance program. This ensures that everyone using Consensus is protected, limiting the ability for unauthorized parties to enter the Consensus app through any sort of back door. 

Security protocols also provide continual monitoring for data breaches so any issues are caught and handled immediately, preventing them from impacting your business. 

HIPAA Compliance Best Practices

Not all online faxing services are created equally. Although many companies claim to provide HIPAA-compliant faxes, they do not all provide the same level of security. This means that it’s not enough to look for the cheapest company that claims to be HIPAA compliant. You need to do a bit of detective work to ensure the online faxing company you’re choosing is following online faxing best practices to keep your patients’ PHI secure while providing your practice the convenience and scalability you’re looking for. 

Strong Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication

Having authorized users as part of a fax security system is not enough when it comes to securing faxes. You also want to be sure that clever hackers can’t impersonate those authorized users. That’s where having a combination of strong passwords and multi-factor authentication comes in handy. The best digital fax software companies use multiple layers of security to protect the identities of their users.

Consensus only accepts strong passwords that include a combination of letters and special characters. Users can set their multi-factor authentication either online or through mobile devices. These procedures ensure that only authorized users access PHI, protecting your patients’ medical information at every step in the fax journey.

Updated Digital Fax Software

Outdated digital fax software can leave companies open to security breaches. It can also reduce productivity by increasing the amount of time it takes to send faxes or by increasing errors in the digital faxing process. That’s why, when choosing a digital faxing company, healthcare providers should look for a company with the most up-to-date digital fax software. 

Consensus works by using eFax Corporate®, the world’s number one enterprise cloud fax solution. This digital cloud fax technology uses redundant servers, connections, storage points, and transport networks to ensure that there are no points of failure in the online faxing process. The protected fax network uses firewalls and secure technologies to guarantee a 99.5% uptime, rapid delivery times, and unparalleled transmission security. 

Authorized Personnel Only

General online faxing software may allow anyone to send or receive faxes. But if you’re looking for HIPAA-compliant faxing technology, you want a company that verifies every user. By allowing only authorized personnel to use the technology, you eliminate the possibility of someone not connected to the healthcare industry accessing documents. 

Consensus verifies the identity of every user, ensuring that only authorized personnel who have confirmed their identity can access the Consensus portal. 

Benefits of HIPAA Compliance

Choosing a digital faxing service that provides HIPAA compliance has more benefits than just protecting your audit trail. HIPAA compliance is designed to benefit patients and providers, building trust between them and reducing inefficiencies. 

The healthcare industry benefits from the use of HIPAA-compliant faxes in a number of key ways, including increased productivity, enhanced patient care, and increased scalability and reliability. 

Increased Efficiency and Productivity

Traditional fax machines are arduous to use. Users have to print the documents they want to send, walk to the fax machine, and then fax each page individually. There may only be one or two fax machines in the entire building, leading to long waits to even get to the fax machine. And technical errors like printer jams, low toner levels, or malfunctioning machines can further slow the process. 

By using HIPAA-compliant faxing online, healthcare providers can fax documents with the touch of a button. They don’t even have to leave their office. Providers can fax entire medical documents at once, rather than page by page, from their office computer, tablet, or mobile device. 

This process can save providers a significant amount of time over the course of a week. This allows providers to get more work done throughout the course of the day. Considering the current healthcare crisis, this increased level of productivity is crucial for medical offices. 

Enhanced Patient Care

Providers must be able to exchange healthcare information to learn from one another, provide meaningful consultations, and grow their networks. The Electronic Health Records (EHR) Exchange Program has led the majority of healthcare facilities to adopt a single system for storing patient documents. 

HIPAA-compliant faxes enable query-based healthcare data exchange between providers without compromising the security of your patients’ private data. This level of exchange improves access to patient records. For example, if a patient ends up in the Emergency Room, query-based healthcare data exchange allows ER attendants to access their records and provide appropriate care based on each patient’s unique medical profile. This leads to improved patient care and less medical malpractice. 

HIPAA-compliant faxes also allow doctors and other healthcare providers to work more quickly. Instead of jotting a note to themselves to fax patient files later in the day, providers can fax documents and referrals while the patient is still in the room. By making the faxing process more convenient, HIPAA-compliant faxes leave less room for human error. Doctors are less likely to forget to send documents where they need to go. Referrals get in on time, and patients receive follow-up care and treatment in a more reasonable timeframe without having to call their primary care physician multiple times.

Improved Reliability and Scalability

HIPAA-compliant faxes allow healthcare providers to send faxes in a more reliable way. Patients can count on their medical providers to send documents when they say they’re going to, and other healthcare providers can count on them to send documents when they’re requested. This increased reliability builds trust between patients and providers as well as inter-office trust. 

By being able to send faxes efficiently and safely, healthcare offices can also scale their operations better than they could if their day-to-day operations were bogged down with inefficient systems and slow processes.

Stay Compliant With the World’s Leading Digital Fax Solution

If you’re looking to reduce wait times for your patients, increase productivity within your healthcare facility, and improve the security of all personal healthcare information, HIPAA-compliant digital faxes are the solution you’ve been looking for. 

Don’t trust off-brands that say they’re HIPAA compliant while hiding system vulnerabilities that leave your faxes open to unauthorized users. Trust Consensus, the world’s leading digital fax solution. 

Consensus goes above and beyond the expectations for HIPAA compliance. The security of your data is our top priority. That’s why, in addition to following all HIPAA rules and regulations, Consensus also follows all digital faxing best practices.

Our top-of-the-line digital faxing solution uses up-to-date technology to guarantee the best online faxing experience for providers and their patients. Get started with cloud faxing today.