Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones are becoming increasingly popular with businesses and organizations due to their cost-effectiveness, ease of use, and flexibility. However, using a unified communication system built around VoIP phones raises several cybersecurity concerns that organizations must be made aware of. This is especially true for healthcare and finance companies using IP telephone systems. But any business owner with data security concerns needs to know how to secure their VoIP phone system. Fortunately, many VoIP service providers, including DirecTech, offer HIPAA-compliant products.
VoIP Service Providers Should Provide Compliant Systems
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that defines how sensitive patient health information must be protected. HIPAA rules apply both to “covered entities” and to “business associates” that handle what the Act defines as protected health information (PHI). Covered entities include:
- Entities that directly interact with patients, including pharmacies, clinics, doctors, and any other healthcare provider that transmits PHI electronically.
- Insurance programs, including PPOs and HMOs, and government-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
- Healthcare “clearinghouses” that process health information from different sources into standard formats.
Business associates are third-party vendors that do business with covered entities and handle or store PHI for those entities. Business associates include medical billing firms, IT and telecom vendors, and medical transcription companies. If your company is a business associate under HIPAA rules, it needs a compliant VoIP phone system. Look for a company like DirecTech with experience regarding regulatory compliance issues in your industry.
IP telephone systems carry some risks, not all common to networked hardware. VoIP phone calls are transmitted over the internet, which means they are susceptible to interception by unauthorized parties. Hackers can intercept VoIP calls and listen in on conversations, potentially obtaining sensitive information such as login credentials, credit card information, and personal data.
Another concern is hacking. VoIP phone systems are vulnerable to cyberattacks that can compromise the system and gain access to sensitive information. Hackers can use VoIP phones as a gateway to infiltrate an organization’s network and launch further attacks.
A third concern is denial-of-service attacks (DoS). Hackers can target VoIP phone systems with DoS attacks, which overwhelm the system with traffic and cause it to crash. DoS attacks can disrupt business operations and cause financial losses.
Natural disasters cannot be ignored, though they get less attention than cyberattacks. Floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes can cause utilities to go offline. If your network goes down, so do your phones; unless your provider offers high-availability server options as part of a package, you may be down for an unacceptable amount of time.
HIPAA sets national standards for protecting the privacy and security of personal health information. Healthcare providers and some of their contractors must comply with HIPAA regulations to safeguard patient information. When using VoIP phones in healthcare, it is essential to ensure that the service provider and the hardware used are HIPAA compliant.
VoIP phone systems are vulnerable to cyber threats like eavesdropping, hacking, and denial-of-service attacks. Cybersecurity is critical in healthcare because a data breach could expose sensitive patient information, resulting in legal and financial consequences for the healthcare provider. VoIP service providers have the tools to keep a business operating safely in a regulated industry like healthcare. They do this with encrypted communication, firewalls, and other techniques embodied in their hardware or software.
HIPAA-compliant IP telephone systems can be a vital resource for healthcare organizations, and their contractor firms, can ensure they comply with relevant data security regulations in a few ways. Most VoIP service providers make this easy, but you still must take steps to remain compliant.
To protect patient information and ensure HIPAA compliance, healthcare providers should take the following steps:
- Choose a HIPAA-compliant VoIP service provider: The VoIP phone service provider should have appropriate security measures in place to protect patient information.
- Use encrypted communications: All VoIP phone calls should be encrypted to prevent eavesdropping and hacking. Encryption ensures that data is unreadable if intercepted by unauthorized parties.
- Implement access controls: Only authorized individuals should have access to patient information. VoIP phone systems should have strong authentication and access control measures to prevent unauthorized access.
- Conduct regular security assessments: Healthcare providers should conduct regular security assessments to identify vulnerabilities in their VoIP phone systems and take appropriate measures to address them.
VoIP phones offer numerous benefits for healthcare providers, but they must be used in compliance with HIPAA regulations and with a strong focus on cybersecurity. By choosing a HIPAA-compliant service provider, using encrypted communications, implementing access controls, and conducting regular security assessments, healthcare providers can ensure the privacy and security of patient information.
IP Telephone Systems Can Keep Your Business Compliant
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones are becoming increasingly popular in healthcare settings due to their cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and ease of use. Privacy rules embedded in HIPAA and other legislation affect a wide range of businesses, including any company that handles financial or medical information. However, using IP telephone systems in healthcare requires special attention to HIPAA compliance, cybersecurity, and high availability server options for uninterrupted 24/7/365 operations.
Good VoIP service providers offer unified communication systems and IP telephones that keep an organization compliant. If you want to learn more about setting up a VoIP phone system for your business, contact the experts at DirecTech for a free consultation.