Remember when voicemail used to be the primary method for patients to communicate with healthcare providers? If the staff at a physician’s office was extremely busy, the patient would leave a message for the practice detailing his or her request.

With the rapid adoption of two-way text messaging, email and other forms of electronic communication, though, voicemail has come to be seen by many as a ubiquitous communication tool. Some doctor’s office staff see it as a cumbersome burden requiring too much hassle to set up greetings, keep mailboxes empty, check incoming messages and update outgoing ones.

Many physician practices now utilize digital technology known as Voice Over IP (VoIP) phones, which provide them with an enhanced strategy for connecting with patients, especially after office hours. This technology allows practice staff to prioritize calls and keep their communication more efficient to avoid losing calls – and revenue from patient leakage.

In addition to providing 24/7 availability for both patients and providers, voicemail improves the accuracy of message content, offers multiple features and saves patients time. A vital component of a physician practice’s communication strategy, it adds another level of convenience, especially for the growing trend of healthcare consumerism, and is an expedient method for prescription renewals, appointment reminders and other often burdensome administrative tasks.

How HIPAA Applies to Voicemail

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule is peppered with rules and regulations to protect sensitive patient health information (PHI) from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge. For patient outreach, it doesn’t prohibit covered entities from communicating with patients by means of voicemail. It does, however, note that providers should limit the amount of information disclosed on these calls and not leave information on any lab result that necessitates a patient take immediate follow-up action.

Healthcare providers that employ voicemail for patients to communication with them should include the following elements of a professional voicemail greeting:

  • Information: Your voicemail should provide all the information the caller needs. At the least, the recording should include your name, the name of your practice and your office hours. You can also include the best way to reach you, and provide that contact information.
  • Validation: A professional voicemail greeting should thank the caller for their call and apologize for missing it. If you can’t do both, at least show gratitude or regret.
  • Motivation: The aim of a professional voicemail is to keep the caller on the line long enough to listen to your message. You do that by motivating them enough to listen and leave their message. For this to happen, your recording must make them wait for their turn to speak.
  • Length: Keep your voicemail greetings within ten and 30 seconds. Many people will appreciate a short, concise message that immediately gives them all the information they need.

The Design of the RingRx Platform

RingRx was created to end the persistent problems with communication in healthcare phone systems by developing easy-to-use tools that help providers improve patient care while reducing costs and errors. Voicemail is a staple of contemporary hosted communications and the repository for most PHI, so we made sure it was a core component of our platform.

For our innovative communications platform, we made sure to include multiple requirements, including:

  • Security and redundancy: HIPAA voicemail has to be able to be completely encrypted and stored in multiple geographies simultaneously to eliminate any single points of failure. In the era of cloud services, availability is king.
  • Auditing: Messages are PHI, so we need to show who touched them and when.
  • Collaboration: The ability to listen to, read and annotate messages in shared mailboxes helps to avoid duplicated efforts and improve efficiency.
  • Many to one: Medical practices often have numerous general mailboxes in addition to user’s personal message stores. This is a complicated arrangement to maintain because it can lead to one user managing many mailboxes, each for different purposes.
  • Transcription: Transcription used to be premium, but these days, if you aren’t transcribing HIPAA voicemail, you aren’t keeping up. Employees and employers see that reading messages is a force multiplier. It saves time and makes messages easier to share with co-workers.
  • More than voicemail: Users want to keep secure archives of multiple types of messages, such as SMS, faxes and any piece of information that transited the system.
  • Extensibility: We didn’t know what tomorrow would bring, so we designed a system that allowed us to easily extend for new data and workflows as our customers’ needs evolved.

Along with these requirements, we designed and built our first-in-the-industry PHIlo (PHI Silo) storage layer for our platform on top of Apache CouchDB and other open-source technologies chosen for loosely-coupled clustering, eventual consistency and web scale. The RingRx system allows layers to be anywhere—fully distributed—in relation to each other, giving us complete control of the workflow.

Because our solution demands encryption at every single layer, we wrapped every component in best-of-breed encryption utilizing bi-direction authentication. Fully orchestrated and designed to be automatically scaled up or down on a second’s notice, the RingRx Voicemail system operates with minimal human hands to minimize security exposure, thereby solving the issue of capacity management.

Through our superior, all-encompassing voicemail platform, we’re able to provide all sizes and types of healthcare provider organizations with 100 percent HIPAA-compliant VoIP healthcare phone systems that protect confidential health information and improve patient communication. Take advantage of our free, 14-day trial to learn how you can cost-effectively simplify communication between your practice and your patients. Also, check out our Tips for Designing a HIPAA-compliant Phone System.