HIPAA-Compliant VoIP: Why It’s Essential To Protect Patient Privacy

December 19, 2023 6 min read

Alex Doan

Alex Doan

HIPAA-Compliant VoIP Phone Service

In the high-stakes healthcare sector, where patient data is more valuable than credit card information, safeguarding your business against cyber threats is not just wise; it’s a must.

As healthcare organizations shift to cloud-based communications such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), understanding and implementing the finer details of HIPAA compliance is non-negotiable.

We’re here to guide you through key aspects of HIPAA-compliant VoIP services, helping you maintain the highest standards of privacy, avoid large penalties, and build trust with your patients and vendors through enhanced data security.

What Is HIPAA & Who Must Comply?

Enacted by U.S. Congress in 1996, HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It upholds the confidentiality and security of private healthcare and patient information in all its forms, especially electronically.

This is where HIPAA-ready VoIP services become relevant.

All VoIP technology used within the healthcare industry must comply with HIPAA standards, ensuring that patient information shared over these platforms remains secure and confidential.

But who needs to comply? Any organization that manages electronic protected health information (ePHI or PHI). This includes healthcare providers and clearinghouses, health plans, and all associated businesses.

Most importantly, HIPAA compliance is not optional. 

It’s a legal requirement and is primarily enforced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

By adhering to HIPAA standards, healthcare providers uphold the integrity of the healthcare industry and safeguard patient information that can easily be used to commit such crimes as identity theft.

Types of Communications Covered

HIPAA compliance covers a broad spectrum of communication. Here are suggested approaches for popular healthcare communication channels.

Risks for Noncompliance

The business consequences of noncompliance go beyond fines, potentially causing long-term damage to your reputation. A breach of patient privacy can result in a PR crisis and lawsuits that can severely impact your financial standing as a company.

The most common examples of HIPAA violations include lack of encryption, getting hacked, unauthorized access, loss or theft of a company device, disposal of PHI, and accessing PHI from an unsecured location.

Take HIPAA compliance seriously to avoid the following penalties.

Fines: HIPAA violations are categorized by tier, with fines starting at $137 and reaching as high as $2 million.

Tier 1 violations range from $100-$50,000, up to a maximum of $25,000 per year.

The most severe level of HIPAA penalties starts at $50,000 per violation, up to a maximum of approximately $2.1 million per year, with fines changing every year to account for cost of living adjustments.

HIPPA Violation Penalties
Via The HIPAA Journal

Recent cases of HIPAA violations and associated fines can be found here.

Civil HIPAA penalties are issued to individuals who did not commit the violation with any malicious intent. Criminal penalties, meanwhile, are issued to individuals if the violation was done with criminal intent.

Poor customer experience

Patients who feel that their personal health information is not being handled securely or confidentially have trouble trusting their healthcare providers. This can affect patient retention rates and decrease their willingness to share necessary information for effective treatment.

Damaged brand reputation

HIPAA violations spread quickly and often result in negative publicity. Mishandling of patient data can quickly damage your reputation as a trusted healthcare provider and may negatively affect the public’s perception of your business regarding reliability, trustworthiness, and overall integrity.

Lawsuits and financial settlements

HIPAA noncompliance can lead to legal action from affected patients or groups. Lawsuits involve costly legal fees and potential settlements and divert significant time and resources away from your healthcare business. 

The majority of violation fines come from settlements. Moreover, a public legal battle will only further tarnish your reputation and credibility in the healthcare space.

Healthcare data breaches from 2009-2023
Via The HIPAA Journal

Staying Ahead of HIPAA Compliance

Implement the following steps to help your team remain HIPAA-compliant during day-to-day communication in your healthcare business.

Maintaining these standards demonstrates your commitment to patient privacy and creates a culture of compliance and respect that spreads through all levels of your organization.

Execute a business associate agreement (BAA): Implement a BAA with all vendors who handle your PHI. This agreement is a legally binding document that ensures the privacy and security of PHI, as required by HIPAA.

Encrypt your communications: Encryption is a non-negotiable component of HIPAA compliance. All forms of electronic communication containing PHI, including emails, texts, and VoIP calls, must be encrypted to prevent unauthorized access during transmission.

Use approved business communications tools: Choosing HIPAA-compliant communication platforms and tools ensures that your patient’s data remains secure and private during all points of transmission. These tools feature built-in security that meets HIPAA guidelines.

Maintain accurate call logs: Keeping detailed logs of all PHI communication is essential. HIPAA requires that you maintain records of the communication, along with contextual details such as date, time, and parties involved.

Disable noncompliant features: If your communication platform includes features that are not HIPAA-compliant, disable these before use. Watch out for features that do not encrypt messages or call recording functions that fail to meet HIPAA standards.

Educate your team: The fact is that negligent employees are responsible for 61% of data breaches in healthcare. Ensure that your healthcare professionals remain up-to-date on HIPAA standards and yearly updates. 

HIPAA is set to introduce stricter cybersecurity requirements in 2024. These changes aim to address the increasing threats within the healthcare sector and ensure the protection of patient information.

To prepare for these changes, your team should start by reviewing current cybersecurity and privacy protocols and identifying areas that need strengthening.

Investing in training and education helps your team understand the importance of HIPAA and helps them use communication tools correctly.

Finally, since phishing attacks accounted for 45% of all healthcare data breaches in 2021, it’s essential to train your staff to recognize and properly report these incidents.

Phishing attacks in healthcare
Via Office of Information Security

HIPAA-Compliant VoIP: The Best Communications Platform for Healthcare Is Here

Given the sensitive nature of healthcare communications, a robust, secure, and reliable solution is essential. Nextiva’s HIPAA-compliant VoIP services stand out as a scalable solution for many medical offices across North America.

For unified, secure, and scalable communications tailored specifically for the healthcare industry and HIPAA, learn more about Nextiva’s VoIP solutions for healthcare.

Looking ahead, technology integration in healthcare shows no signs of slowing down.

With new technologies such as AI set to reshape healthcare even further, the need to secure patient data across all platforms, recognize the risks of noncompliance and actively stay ahead with comprehensive strategies has never been more important.

Healthcare service providers must be proactive in meeting current regulations and preparing for future advancements and challenges in patient data protection. It’s the key to maintaining trust and upholding the highest standards in the healthcare industry.

Related: Healthcare Call Center Best Practices for Better Patient Care


Are VoIP phones HIPAA compliant? 

VoIP business phone systems can be HIPAA-compliant, but security and privacy standards depend on the specific provider and how it’s used. 

Does Nextiva meet HIPAA compliance requirements?

Nextiva’s VoIP-powered communication solutions are HIPAA-compliant, including phone, virtual fax, and video conferencing. To comply with HIPAA requirements, Nextiva limits some functionality to protect patient data. 

Nextiva also implements a BAA that addresses covered services and states the privacy, security, and breach notification rules needed for business associates under HIPAA.

Which VoIP features don’t meet HIPAA guidelines?

Nextiva offers in-depth security and privacy to all customers. For HIPAA-compliant accounts, certain features are disabled to meet federal law.

Nextiva provides HIPAA-compliant voice, fax, and video services that help streamline communication for healthcare practices and enterprises. Voicemail transcription, fax to email, listening to voice messages (via the Nextiva Mobile App), and vFAX are features that are disabled to comply with HIPAA.

Discover Nextiva’s complete list of HIPAA-compliant features here.
Texting (SMS/MMS) is not HIPAA compliant, but Nextiva allows the use of SMS on HIPAA accounts as long as guidelines are followed and PHI is not sent or received through text.

Alex Doan


Alex Doan

Alex Doan is an experienced senior marketing professional specializing in propelling growth for both B2B and B2C companies. Proficient in streamlining marketing operations for seamless sales transitions, utilizing analytics and consumer insights to achieve measurable outcomes. Committed to enhancing lead and customer experiences through effective journey mapping.

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