How many communications platforms does a healthcare organization need?

nurse managing multiple phone systems, needs to consolidate to one phone system

Your practice is growing by leaps and bounds. Congratulations! Now comes the hard(er) part: deciding which technology solutions will streamline your workflows and offer the scalability you need.  Does that mean you should invest in a new EHR or EMR system? Should you purchase software that enables you to provide the option of online appointment scheduling for your patients? And does your medical group need more than just one communications platform?  These are all good questions for any growing medical practice to ask — but there is no 100 percent right or wrong answer. That’s because the number of communication platforms you need depends on your practice’s specific requirements and size.  Maybe you’re dealing with aging communications equipment for which upgrades aren’t available. Or you are simply searching for a scalable VoIP telephony solution that is both reliable and affordable.  In many cases, consolidating communications systems is a smart approach. Why? Because it typically streamlines operations while reducing costs. That’s a win-win situation!  Tips for Consolidating Your Communications Systems  To understand the best method for consolidating communication systems, you should first know what solutions they must include and what to avoid. For example, it’s crucial to research which systems will grow with your practice, meaning you won’t have to invest in a new system every time your medical group experiences an increase in patient flow. This approach also thoroughly assesses your current communication systems to identify redundancies. Once those redundancies are identified, developing your migration plan is crucial. The most important part here is ensuring that the plan enables the transition to a unified communications platform — with minimal disruption to your daily operations. Next up is training. If your staff are uncomfortable with your new system or don’t feel supported, they won’t use it to its full potential. Consider the case of Eugene Psychological Assessments (EPA), an Oregon-based practice specializing in neuropsychological evaluations. Before RingRx, EPA struggled with managing multiple phone lines and faxes across different locations. The practice manager, operating remotely from an RV, faced significant hurdles in unifying these disparate systems. By switching to RingRx, EPA consolidated its communication channels into one efficient platform and enhanced its service delivery through secure phone and text capabilities. This transition was pivotal in transforming their operations, enabling the practice to offer more services and contemplate expansion, all while ensuring HIPAA compliance and maintaining high levels of security and privacy for their sensitive patient communications. VoIP for Healthcare: Why Security is Paramount  As a healthcare practice, you know the importance of keeping data private. That is especially key when you are creating, receiving, maintaining and transmitting protected health information (PHI).  Any HIPAA-compliant phone system you select must adhere to stringent security measures and ensure compliance. The following security measures also should be included in your communications platform: End-to-end encryption: All communications, including messages and files, should be encrypted to prevent unauthorized access. Access controls: Role-based access controls should be implemented to restrict access to PHI, ensuring only authorized personnel can view or modify it. Audit trails: Maintaining audit logs helps track user activity, providing transparency in case of a security incident. Employee training: Staff members should receive training on HIPAA regulations and best practices for handling PHI. Business Associate Agreements (BAAs): BAAs should be established with service providers to ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations. Data backups: Regular data backups and disaster recovery plans should be in place to prevent data loss.  Cost-Effectiveness: Maximizing Your Budget with Smart Solutions Managing costs effectively is as crucial as providing quality patient care. This is where the cost-effectiveness of a unified communications platform like RingRx becomes particularly valuable. RingRx offers a comprehensive suite of communication tools within a single platform. This integration eliminates the complexity and financial burden of maintaining multiple subscriptions and licenses from various providers. By streamlining your communication tools into one efficient system, RingRx simplifies your operations and leads to significant cost savings. With everything from voice calls to secure texting integrated into one platform, your practice can avoid the financial strain of piecemeal solutions. Understanding that no two healthcare practices are the same, RingRx offers scalable service plans that can be precisely tailored to meet the specific needs of your practice. This flexibility ensures that you’re not overspending on unnecessary features or services. Whether your practice is expanding rapidly or maintaining a steady pace, RingRx’s scalable solutions adapt to your growth, ensuring you only pay for what you need. This approach optimizes your costs, allowing you to allocate resources more effectively across your practice. Are you navigating the complexities of your growing healthcare practice and pondering the right communication tools to invest in? The answer might be simpler and more cost-effective than you think. Request a demo today to learn how RingRx’s communication solutions can help you streamline your practice’s operations, enhance data security, and effectively manage your costs.

How Technology Can Improve Staff Productivity and Patient Satisfaction

Two medical professionals looking at a chart

The pandemic may seem like it was a lifetime ago, but it was only a few short years, and we’re still feeling the changes today. In the worst of the crisis, healthcare facilities struggled to stay afloat: patients stopped seeking non-essential services, and practices had to be creative to keep their staff members employed. While things have stabilized and returned to some semblance of normalcy, notable changes exist. Patients have grown more comfortable with telehealth visits, a significant percentage of staff has left the field, and revenues still haven’t fully recovered. In the pre-COVID days, budgetary shortfalls automatically meant staffing cuts, but you’re already struggling to keep the staff you have, and hiring has become impossible. Rather than trying to do more with fewer people, smart practice managers are turning to new, cost-efficient technologies that make their offices more productive while allowing staff to make more meaningful contributions to patient health and satisfaction. Are You Wasting Staff Talent? When you hired your staff, you tempted them with the promise of making patients’ lives better and providing comfort and care. But over the years, they’ve been pulled into duties that they hate doing; ordering supplies, managing billing, inputting patient data, and confirming appointments. Investing in new technologies takes these tasks out of their hands. These tools make your office run more smoothly and have the added benefit of boosting staff morale and your patients’ experience.    By taking advantage of innovations such as digital payment systems that manage accounts receivables and payables and handle reconciliation, you free your employees to engage with your patients more meaningfully. Similarly, adding digital patient portals that allow patients to access their data, make and cancel their own appointments, and send messages directly to healthcare staff eliminates time that staff spends away from their assigned tasks and empowers patients. The office is more efficient, fewer mistakes are made, and everyone is much happier.  Digitizing Your Front Office Improves Care and Cuts Costs Digitization of your front office is surprisingly affordable and introduces remarkable efficiencies. Consider the benefits of adding an electronic medical records or practice management system. Rather than overwhelm your already-overworked office staff and pull them away from more important, patient-centric tasks, you can replace your paper-based system with an intuitive system that streamlines the tasks of sending billing reminders and appointments or manually entering patient information. Depending on the system you choose, it may be able to verify a patient’s health insurance information and automatically determine eligibility, generate follow-up care instructions, book new appointments, or improve your billing process. A cloud-based HIPAA-compliant telecommunication system like RingRx can alleviate the stress of constantly ringing phones and eliminate busy signals and long hold times for your patients. And it can do so without the huge cash outlay that more traditional, hardware-based communication services have previously demanded: Instead, your practice can pay a manageable monthly service plan. The scalable system can grow and respond as your patient load expands without you needing to bring in more staff to accommodate the increased volume. New Tools Boost Patient Satisfaction  Ask your patients their pet peeves about your practice, and you’re likely to hear about too little personal interaction, hold times that are too long, too much difficulty getting the information they need and challenges of hearing back from their practitioners. You know the work that goes into running your practice, and the more you rely on your legacy systems to get the work done, the more dissatisfied your patients will be.  Today’s digital technologies automate your practice’s processes, expand your office’s communication abilities, and let patients feel more attended to, informed, and in control. Rather than feeling rushed or ignored by staff they’ve known for years– or worse, seeing those staff members lost to budget cuts or burnout – they can discuss their concerns. Amplify Your Abilities Without Adding Expenses Adding abilities may sound counterintuitive when you’re concerned about your expenses, but high-tech healthcare applications can maximize your cost efficiencies and make your office more productive. If you’re operating with an outdated communications framework, there’s a good chance that it’s actually costing you time and wasted human resources, not to mention additional outlays for maintenance. Worse yet, a legacy system puts you at risk for non-compliance with HIPAA privacy regulations, or at the very least, means that you must take many extra steps to remain compliant. RingRX offers a cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant telecommunications system that increases your office efficiency, eliminates the cost of proprietary equipment, and speeds up your patients’ access to care. You’ll alleviate the stress that your staff feels every day and give yourself the ability to put them to work doing what they do best. For more information on how a RingRx system can manage your calls, reduce patient wait times, boost your practice’s abilities and improve staff and patient satisfaction, contact us today to set up a free 14-day trial.

Cloud Communication | What It Is and Why It’s Better

Medical files on the cloud

Are you constantly wondering how the day slipped away from you, longing for more hours to get things done? Inefficient communication practices often eat up valuable time, especially in healthcare organizations. Many of these daily challenges could be permanently eliminated by eliminating outdated landline technologies in favor of cloud communications and Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP). These constantly improving tools offer significant benefits, improving productivity and enhancing patient experience while assuring compliance with all HIPAA regulations.  Lack of familiarity with this technology has prevented many practices and facilities from moving beyond the equipment they’ve relied upon for decades. In this article, we’ll demystify how cloud and VoIP can save you time and boost productivity.  What is Cloud Communication? Cloud-based communication tools, such as phone, fax, and other services transmitted over the Internet, have gained significant popularity in the healthcare industry. One key component of this technology is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which enables voice-based messages to be communicated digitally. Unlike traditional communication methods, cloud-based systems do not require specific equipment to be purchased or maintained. They offer the advantage of accessibility from anywhere and the flexibility to scale as a business grows. By transmitting information and documents digitally, cloud communication eliminates the need for physical storage of health records and patient documents. Additionally, data is hosted in dedicated centers with robust data protection measures, ensuring encryption and enhancing confidentiality, reliability, and security. Opting for a HIPAA-compliant cloud-based phone system provides peace of mind, knowing that protected health information sent via voicemail, text message, fax, or any other stored data remains secure. The increasing popularity of web-based communication services in healthcare organizations can be attributed to their ability to simplify patient-staff communications, facilitate seamless collaboration among healthcare professionals, and offer economic, operational, and functional advantages. Whether it’s a single, independent practice or a multi-location regional health system, cloud-based communication solutions have proven valuable in optimizing healthcare operations. How Does Cloud Communications Improve Patient Care? Caring for patients is central to everything you do; every aspect of your practice must support that goal. Adding a HIPAA-compliant cloud-based communication system will significantly improve your communication with your patients. Few things are more frustrating to patients than being unable to connect with staff due to outages or competing calls from other patients. These issues are eliminated with web-based telecommunications systems, which are less likely to have downtime and can also answer and direct multiple incoming calls simultaneously. Overburdened and limited numbers of landlines are replaced by technology with modern features and capabilities, including automated appointment reminders via text, after-hours call routing, inbound routing rules that reduce hold times, and the ability to retrieve patient information instantly, no matter how many facilities the organization manages. How Does Cloud Communication Improve Staff Communication and Productivity? Cloud communication is more reliable and less vulnerable to outages than traditional landline technology. But beyond that benefit is the fact that staff can take advantage of multiple features and capabilities that go far beyond that of outdated hardware: a HIPAA-compliant system like the one offered by RingRx increases both reliability and efficiency, allowing staff to communicate via phone, text, fax, a mobile application, and an automated on-call answering service. Physicians and other key personnel can tailor their workflows to minimize inefficiencies, optimizing call routing and thus improving the care that patients receive. Among the features that RingRx offers are:     Mailbox sharing that enables group task completion and which can streamline supervision     Email notification     Portal faxing from any internet-connected mobile device, laptop, or personal computer     Text messaging with patients and HIPAA-compliant texting using our mobile app     Ring groups that enable cross-sharing of incoming calls and texts     Call blocking and filtering systems to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls How to Select the Right Cloud Communication System for Your Needs Some HIPAA-compliant cloud communication technologies offer compatibility across other applications your practice may already be using, while others do not. Similarly, some require that you use their dedicated cloud computing provider. Some, like RingRx, are cloud technology-agnostic, allowing you to run their platform for any provider. Whether you want that type of flexibility or not, there are certain functions that you should look for to ensure that your patient information is protected and that you are in compliance with federal law.  These include:     Servers managed in multiple locations to protect against local failures and ensure that all PHI data — whether voice mail, patient contact information, faxes, or electronic health records— are accessible.     Data and files that are automatically encrypted, with aggressive strategies to protect against hackers and other unauthorized access to PHI.     Robust employee training for the proper use of the technology. Education is the key to ensuring that a HIPAA-compliant system is used to its fullest capabilities and that patient information is fully protected.     Password protection and security at the local level and for cloud access.     Any cloud communication system you choose should include auditing capabilities for both deployment and maintenance practice, and the phone system provider should provide routine automated audits to ensure that the system is only accessible by those with the appropriate authorizations.     A vendor that provides a HIPAA-compliant communication system must offer a formal business associate agreement that ensures that all standards for protecting patient information under the law are met.  Cloud Communication Meets the Unique Needs of Healthcare Organizations Like all businesses, healthcare organizations must improve efficiency and productivity while meeting and exceeding client expectations for service and has the additional challenge of unique needs and exacting legal requirements. Aging technology gets in the way of each of these goals and adds to expenditures as well. Cloud communication technology meets federal compliance criteria for protecting PHI, eliminates the costs of repairing or replacing hardware, and introduces multiple time-saving and efficiency-boosting measures. It offers tools and collaboration capabilities that are simply unavailable using traditional landline service, all while providing enhanced data security

Navigating the Complexities of HIPAA Compliance for Your Practice

When you work in healthcare, hearing about HIPAA is inevitable. There is a ton of information online about HIPAA, but finding information related to your business can be challenging as a small healthcare practice. Here are some HIPAA FAQs for smaller practices…  What is the HIPAA Privacy Rule? The HIPAA Privacy Rule dictates the proper uses and disclosures of protected health information (PHI). This includes sharing PHI between providers, health plans, and business associates.  What is the HIPAA Security Rule? The HIPAA Security Rule dictates the security measures that are required to be in place to secure PHI. This Rule requires organizations to implement security measures that are “reasonable and appropriate” for their organization. This means that it is not expected for a sole practitioner doctor’s office to have the same security measures in place that a hospital has. To determine the appropriate measures for your organization, you must conduct a security risk assessment annually. What is the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule? The Breach Notification Rule requires healthcare organizations to report breaches that compromise the privacy or security of PHI. Breaches affecting less than 500 patients must be reported to affected patients and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS’) Office for Civil Rights (OCR). These breaches can be reported annually (by March 1 of the year following). Breaches affecting 500 or more patients must be reported to affected patients, HHS’ OCR, and media outlets. These breaches must be reported within sixty (60) days of discovering the incident. HIPAA and Patient Information What is protected health information? Protected health information is individually identifiable health information created, used, or disclosed during diagnosis or treatment. This can relate to the past, present, or future healthcare provision. The Department of Health and Human Services classifies PHI into 18 identifiers as follows: Name Address  Any dates (except years) that are directly related to an individual, including birthday, date of admission or discharge, date of death, or the exact age of individuals older than 89 Telephone number Fax number Email address Social Security number Medical record number Health plan beneficiary number Account number Certificate/license number Vehicle identifiers, serial numbers, or license plate numbers Device identifiers or serial numbers Web URLs IP address Biometric identifiers such as fingerprints or voiceprints Full-face photos Any other unique identifying numbers, characteristics, or codes. What is a Notice of Privacy Practices? A Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP) describes how the healthcare organization may and may not use PHI and patients’ rights and obligations concerning PHI. The NPP must be distributed to patients on or before their first visit, and a copy must be available for patients upon request.  What is a HIPAA authorization form? Healthcare practices must obtain an authorization form from patients to use or disclose their PHI for purposes beyond treatment, payment, or healthcare operations. The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires that an individual provide signed authorization before the entity may use or disclose PHI for certain purposes. This authorization form enables healthcare practices to use the patient’s PHI for marketing purposes or for reasons other than regular use and disclosures. What is the HIPAA minimum necessary standard? The HIPAA Privacy Rule dictates that PHI use and disclosure should be limited to only the minimum necessary to perform a job function. This means that healthcare providers should only access a patient’s PHI when they need to do so. The minimum necessary standard also requires PHI access to be limited based on an employee’s job role and PHI access to be monitored and logged to ensure adherence to the standard. What is the HIPAA right of access? The HIPAA Privacy Rule generally provides individuals with a legal, enforceable right to see and receive copies, upon request, of the information in their medical and other health records maintained by their healthcare providers and health plans. This right is known as the HIPAA right of access. Under this standard, patients must be provided their requested records within thirty (30) days of the request in the format they requested them in. HIPAA Violations and Fines What is considered a violation of HIPAA? HIPAA violations occur when healthcare organizations fail to make a “good faith effort” to ensure PHI’s confidentiality, integrity, or availability. Failure to address just one requirement of HIPAA can result in a HIPAA violation, subjecting the organization to fines and corrective actions. Common HIPAA violations include: Improper use or disclosure of PHI Failure to conduct a risk assessment Failure to encrypt devices containing PHI when it was reasonable to do so Failure to comply with the HIPAA right of access standard How are HIPAA fine amounts determined? The HHS OCR determines fine amounts based on the level of perceived negligence.  Tier 1 is the “No Knowledge” Tier. Under this tier, an organization did not know that a member of its workforce violated a HIPAA provision. The maximum fine amount under this tier is $58,000 per violation.  Tier 2 is the “Reasonable Cause” Tier. Under this tier, the violation was due to reasonable cause, not willful neglect. The maximum fine amount under this tier is $58,000 per violation.  Tier 3 is the “Willful Neglect – Corrected” Tier. Under this tier, the violation is due to willful neglect, but the violation is timely corrected. The maximum fine amount under this tier is $58,000 per violation.  Tier 4 is the “Willful Neglect – Not Corrected” Tier. Under this tier, the violation is due to willful neglect and is not timely corrected. The maximum fine amount under this tier is $1.75 million per violation. 

Virtual Care in 2022: A Sustainable Solution for Providers and Patients

It’s been almost two years since the COVID-19 virus catapulted the world into a pandemic. The healthcare industry continues to face numerous obstacles because of it, including hospitals filled to capacity with patients and a shortage of clinicians available to care for all of them. The physicians and nurses dealing with COVID-19 continue to experience burnout, with almost 30 percent of healthcare workers considering leaving their profession altogether. Virtual health has been utilized during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist in meeting the needs of patients while sustaining revenue for hospitals, health systems and physician practice. Roughly 60 percent of patients experienced their first virtual visit during the pandemic, and about  90 percent of physicians believe it’s beneficial in terms of increased access, communication and satisfaction. A Top Technology Trend One of the most widely-used forms of virtual care, telehealth, has increased at levels 38X higher than before the pandemic, ranging from 13-17 percent of visits across all specialties. This growth in telehealth use is the result of three primary factors: Increased consumer willingness to use telehealth Increased provider willingness to use telehealth Regulatory changes enabling greater access and reimbursement The virtual care market isn’t forecast to face any major declines anytime soon. The projected market growth for telehealth is $396.76 billion by 2027, and the global market for remote patient monitoring (RPM) is predicted to be worth over $1.7 billion by 2027. The Business Group on Health, a non-profit organization that represents large employers’ views and perspectives on health policy issues, lists virtual healthcare as one of the five top health trends of 2022 and postulates that it will increasingly be integrated with in-person care. That’s not surprising, as one report found that almost 25 percent of patients stated they’d be using both virtual and in-person care following the Covid-19 pandemic. Other research shows that between 40 and 60 percent of consumers express interest in a set of broader virtual health solutions, such as a “digital front door” or lower-cost virtual-first health plan. When asked about their virtual care investment priorities for 2022, healthcare executives surveyed cited their top has improving member experience (65 percent), expanding access to care (59 percent) and acquiring new members (37 percent). Those priorities also match their top investments. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is promoting increased use of virtual care technologies, specifically telehealth and telecommunications, through its Calendar Year (CY) 2022 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) final rule. The rule is designed to encourage expanded use of virtual care to provide behavioral healthcare service along with encouraging growth in its diabetes prevention program and boosting payment rates for vaccine administration. Improved Access to Quality Healthcare Virtual care offers flexibility to providers, including those reporting high levels of burnout, by enabling them when necessary to conduct visits away from their office. It allows them to see more patients in less time, resulting in increased reimbursement and patient satisfaction, and quickly and cost-effectively communicate with other physicians on patient care. Clinicians can use virtual care to accurately record clinical data and support consumer-directed care and value-based models, even with staffing efficiencies. Financially, some experts estimate that uses of virtual care in annual patient visits, ongoing patient management and self-care could generate an economic value of approximately $10 billion annually across the United States health system. How does virtual care benefit patients? It provides them with 24/7 access to healthcare, reduced appointment and in-office wait times, more private access to mental health resources, less costly emergency care and improved understanding of post-hospitalization care plans. For residents living in rural communities, it mitigates the need for travel to access both preventive and medical care and gives them better access to healthcare specialists. Contact RingRx to learn about our seamless and scalable communications solutions for every practice size.