Scaling Excellence: Solutions for Expanding Healthcare Practices

Team of doctors looking at tablet

Business growth is great. It means your product or service meets consumers’ needs and/or preferences. 

Challenges often occur, though, when you attempt to grow your business. You have to figure out how and when to expand your workforce, what strategies to implement to stay competitive and which methods best ensure strong financial management. Another priority is selecting the best technology to meet your business needs. 

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.

The State of Virtual Healthcare 2023

Patient on the phone with doctor

The customer is always right. We all know that’s not exactly the case, but part of providing good service to consumers is listening to their concerns and complaints.  That sentiment used to apply more to industries such as retail and banking. However, with the rapid rise of healthcare consumerism, providers now must adopt more patient-centric tools — or lose out to competing practices.  Solutions that provide the convenience and accessibility patients want are paramount. An example is virtual care, which exploded onto the scene during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most patients know the most utilized virtual care type: telehealth.  Sure, the use of virtual care has slowed down since the height of the pandemic. But, its adoption remains higher than pre-pandemic levels, with 14–17 percent of visits done through telehealth compared to only one percent in February 2020. It’s no surprise, then, that the telehealth market in the United States is estimated to display seven-fold growth by 2025.  Perks for Patients  Just how does telehealth help patients? Those who utilize virtual care have access to the following: Elimination of long and unnecessary wait times Improved and less costly emergency care Enhanced understanding of post-hospitalization care plans Increased access to care, both preventive and medical, for residents living in rural communities Less exposure to infectious diseases, especially for those who are chronically ill, pregnant, elderly or immunocompromised Reduced or eliminated need for travel to access care  Telehealth also gives patients more expansive and private access to mental health resources. That accessibility is important because, as of March 2023, 160 million Americans live in areas with mental health professional shortages.  Perks for Healthcare Providers  It’s not only patients asking for telehealth to be part of their healthcare journey, although almost 88 percent of patients want to continue using it for nonurgent consultations. The research noted by the American Medical Association (AMA) shows that physicians have overwhelmingly responded positively to its implementation: Roughly 85 percent indicated that telehealth increased the timeliness of care. Approximately 75 percent said telehealth allowed them to deliver high-quality care. More than 70 percent were motivated to increase telehealth use.  Also, according to available data, the number of physicians reporting telehealth as an active skill has doubled as of 2020, from 20 percent to just less than 40 percent. Through virtual care, healthcare providers can: See more patients in less time, resulting in increased reimbursement and patient satisfaction Securely access shared records from a mobile device Quickly and cost-effectively communicate with other physicians on patient care Accurately record clinical data Provide more access to lower-cost care for low-acuity patient encounters Experience fewer staffing inefficiencies Promote easier access to specialists and subspecialists as necessary Support consumer-directed care and value-based models  Used most commonly in the medical fields of dermatology, urology, chronic disease, intensive care and mental health, telehealth also gives physicians a resource to reduce the cost of care. For doctors who serve residents living in rural areas of the U.S., the technology enables them to connect virtually with clinicians at larger hospitals who may be able to diagnose a serious health problem better or offer more extensive treatment options.  Expanded Telehealth Rules and Regulations  The increased utilization of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic was partly spurred by policymakers’ easing of rules and regulations. Recent legislation authorized an extension — through December 31, 2024 — of many of these Medicare telehealth flexibilities, including: FQHCs and RHCs can serve as a distant site provider for non-behavioral/mental telehealth services Medicare patients can receive telehealth services in their home There are no geographic restrictions for originating site for non-behavioral/mental telehealth services Some non-behavioral/mental telehealth services can be delivered using audio-only communication platforms An in-person visit within six months of an initial behavioral/mental telehealth service and annually after that is not required All eligible Medicare providers can provide telehealth services  Almost every state Medicaid program has some form of coverage for telehealth services. Many private healthcare payers are embracing coverage for many such services. And, along with the District of Columbia, 35 states have enacted “parity” laws, which generally require payers to cover services provided via telehealth the same way they would reimburse for services provided in person.   RingRx offers a secure cloud-based platform for healthcare organizations, enabling you to meet patient preferences — including virtual care through phone calls and secure messaging using our mobile app. For a free trial of our phone system designed specifically for the healthcare industry, email us or call 1-888-9860.

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. 

Telecommunications: Taking a Commanding Role in Healthcare

Telecommunications Taking a Commanding Role in Healthcare

It’s been almost 145 years since Alexander Graham Bell was granted his telephone patent and made the first-ever phone call. Without that invention, no one knows if or when telecommunications would be a part of our world. Telecommunications has become an essential part of the healthcare industry. Defined as the suite of technologies, devices, equipment, facilities, networks and applications that support communication at a distance, it consists of telephone calls, videoconferencing and other forms of electronic and digital communications. The streamlined communication available through this type of technology enables healthcare providers to contact patients, other clinicians and administrators or management, precipitating improved patient care and operating efficiency. It aids in decreased wait times, increased patient and provider satisfaction and more expedient care. Used in the management of chronic medical conditions, it has been shown to be especially effective in primary prevention and early disease detection, chronic disease control and symptom management and personal and social support Communication and Collaboration There are a multitude of ways telecommunications is utilized in healthcare, especially through digital technology. One is telehealth and telemedicine, both of which enable people living in remote and rural areas to access healthcare without travelling a long distance. The term telehealth often is used interchangeably with telemedicine but consists of basic telecommunication tools, such as phone calls, text messages, patient portals and emails that allow patients to communicate with their providers. Telemedicine includes remote clinical services through technologies such as remote patient monitoring and live videoconferencing. Another advantageous use of telecommunications in healthcare is providers communicating and collaborating with other clinicians to treat patients. Through phone calls, emails, text messages, electronic health record (EHR) systems and other methods, they can discuss a patient’s medical history, test results and treatment options from almost anywhere, enhancing continuity of care. Data Accessibility and Exchange The exchange of patient data is much easier and quicker through telecommunications technology. Laboratories and other medical testing facilities can electronically and more accurately share test results, including high-resolution images, with various providers. With the right security protocols in place for HIPAA compliance, data critical to a patient’s course of treatment can be transmitted and stored for access by multiple clinicians, allowing them to regularly keep track of a patient’s condition. With the employment of cloud-based telecommunications systems, providers procure even easier access to patient data and don’t risk the possibility of connection downtime due to a disaster caused by nature or human error. Automated Convenience Smartphones and other mobile devices allow for quicker access to information, a convenience that for many consumers is expected in healthcare. Automated communications are designed to enable providers to contact patients through their preferred method, thereby helping to improve patient satisfaction. Through email and SMS messaging, this technology lets providers share appointment reminders and confirmation requests that help reduce no-shows; personalized messages that help the patient feel a closer connection with the practice; and digital newsletters that provide patients with important announcements and information to help them better manage their health. Not only does research show that sending patients appointment reminders can reduce no-shows by 80 percent, automated patient outreach solutions can save time and workflow efficiency for a practice’s office staff, resulting in reduced costs. They also make it easier for providers and their staff to spend more time engaging with patients face-to-face. Cloud Capabilities Part of achieving the numerous advantages of telecommunications is not using outdated technology. Physician practices and other healthcare enterprises that fail to implement up-to-date solutions often experience challenges such as the inability to quickly respond to patient calls, delays and breakdowns in vital communication between medical staff, interruptions to workflow and increased financial waste due to unnecessary capital expenditures and reduced productivity of staff. A prime example of updated telecommunications solutions is a cloud-based voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system. These systems offer: Improved business continuity and streamlined efficiency On-demand access to services on a pay-as-you-go model Increased scalability and reliability Elimination of hardware expenditures and associated maintenance Capability for cross-site integration and collaboration Improved integration with other healthcare systems (i.e. EHRs, billing and practice management systems, fax servers) More modern features and capabilities, including e-faxing, after-hours call routing and spam-protection technology Rely on RingRx for Your Healthcare Telecommunications Needs RingRx is a next-generation, cloud communications platform designed to simplify and improve patient-staff communications for healthcare provider organizations of all sizes. As a completely HIPAA-compliant communications solution, it helps medical practices improve communications, reduce costs and minimize errors. Sign up for our free 14-day trial to experience it for yourself!