15 January 2014
by: Mike Di Perno
Complying with HIPAA regulations has become a major priority in healthcare. Hospitals, clinics and other industry stakeholders find themselves in a position in which they must adjust many phases of their operations to ensure compliance with the regulatory standard. Furthermore, the HIPAA requirements mandate that care facilities not only comply with regulations on their own, but also work with service providers that are capable of complying with the regulatory standards.
For example, a hospital leveraging an IT service is responsible for patient data, even if that information is compromised while handled by the vendor. Because of this, HIPAA compliance has become a discussion point in just about every sector, and the telecommunications industry is not, in any way, exempt from this movement. This is especially true when it comes to IP fax solutions.
Understanding the HIPAA compliance problem associated with IP fax services
The HIPAA compliance problem is especially clear in the fax sector, where the expense of traditional fax services and limitations of many telecom IP fax solutions create major problems for healthcare organizations. Traditional fax platforms require dedicated lines and other telecom resources that represent an inefficient use of fiscal resources when so many other telecom systems can be moved to IP connections.
An IP fax solution, however, can present major security concerns. Many telecoms look at IP fax services as a secondary solution and do not give the system enough attention. Healthcare companies that want to take advantage of IP fax solutions while ensuring HIPAA compliance can benefit substantially from an IP fax service built around the T.38 standard.
Looking at the limitations of IP fax solutions and how T.38 encryption overcomes them
There is a perception across the healthcare sector that sending data over the Internet can prove costly as protection capabilities are not always up to the task of complying with HIPAA standards. The problem is that once data has moved outside of firewalls and onto the Internet, it could be accessed by any hacker who gains access to the telecom network. Because of this, there is a general thought in the healthcare sector that IP fax services are not up to the task of supporting HIPAA compliance.
While security concerns are real, many hospitals find themselves still wanting to move to IP-based telephony services that provide flexible, cost-efficient solutions. This leaves technology buyers in the healthcare sector with a dilemma – do they take on security or financial risk? The operational and fiscal gains offered by IP telephony services, including fax solutions, are substantial, but they can be erased by a HIPAA breach that leads to fines and reputation damages. This is where T.38 services step in, overcoming security challenges and providing the protection necessary to safely move data through the Internet. One key security feature makes HIPAA compliance simple – encryption.
A T.38 IP fax trunk delivers voice and fax data from one destination to another over the Internet in real time. This makes it more difficult for hackers to steal data or otherwise compromise the information as the data packets are not transmitted through a physical line that can be tapped, nor are they stored anywhere. As such, the data is not only safe because it is transmitted in real time, it can have the added layer of protection offered by encryption to help alleviate any security concerns about transmitting faxes over the Internet. Even if someone was to somehow steal the information, or if it were to be lost in transit, nobody would be able to read it because accessing the information depends on a highly-specialized decryption code. As such, the combination of no data image storage and encryption enables full HIPAA compliance making encrypted T.38 IP fax services more secure than traditional dedicated fax lines.
While some electronic and IP fax solutions have left healthcare companies worried about HIPAA compliance, the encrypted T.38 IP fax service resolves all of these concerns and enables hospitals, physician offices and other stakeholders to access cost-efficient fax services without risk.