HIPAA-Compliant VoIP: What It Is (+Why & How To Choose One)

June 1, 2024 10 min read

Alex Doan

Alex Doan

HIPAA-Compliant VoIP Phone Service

The healthcare sector deals with some of the most sensitive data: patient health information (PHI). Safeguarding this information is not just a best practice; it’s a legal requirement under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

With the growing adoption of cloud-based communication solutions like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), ensuring HIPAA compliance becomes even more critical.

We’ll guide you through the key aspects of HIPAA-compliant VoIP services, helping you navigate this critical aspect of healthcare communication.

What Is HIPAA & Who Must Comply?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a landmark U.S. law enacted in 1996. It ensures the privacy and security of patients’ protected health information (PHI), both physical and electronic.

This includes information transmitted through voice calls too, which is why HIPAA compliance becomes crucial for healthcare providers using VoIP technology.

HIPAA compliance is mandatory for all covered entities. These entities fall into three main categories:

Besides covered entities, any organization that works with a covered entity and has access to PHI (e.g., IT service providers, billing companies) is considered a business associate.

Business associates must also comply with certain HIPAA regulations through agreements with covered entities, including ensuring secure communication channels like HIPAA-compliant VoIP.

HIPAA compliance is not optional. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces HIPAA regulations. Violations can result in significant penalties.

For healthcare providers using VoIP, choosing a HIPAA-compliant service ensures secure transmission of patient information during phone calls.

Why Use HIPAA-Compliant VoIP?

In the healthcare industry, protecting patient privacy is a sacred trust. The HIPAA Act sets stringent regulations to safeguard sensitive medical information, and non-compliance can result in hefty fines and a damaged reputation.

That’s why using a HIPAA-compliant phone service is essential for healthcare providers.

Traditional phone lines are vulnerable to eavesdropping, exposing confidential patient data and personal health information to potential breaches. HIPAA-compliant VoIP eliminates this risk by encrypting conversations, and creating a secure tunnel for transmitting sensitive information.

Here’s how it benefits your practice:

Investing in a HIPAA-compliant VoIP solution helps both healthcare providers and patients alike. It protects sensitive medical information, safeguards your organization from costly penalties, and fosters stronger patient relationships built on trust and privacy.

What Are the HIPAA Requirements for VoIP?

HIPAA compliance for VoIP communication consists of two key rules:

1. Privacy Rule

This rule governs how PHI can be used and disclosed. It emphasizes patient control over their health information. Healthcare providers must obtain written authorization before using or disclosing PHI for most purposes. The Privacy Rule ensures the patient has given their consent for this exchange of PHI.

2. Security Rule

This rule focuses on safeguarding electronic protected health information (ePHI). It requires healthcare organizations to implement robust security measures to protect ePHI from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction.

Security Rule Requirements for HIPAA-Compliant VoIP

The HIPAA Security Rule outlines specific safeguards to protect ePHI during VoIP communication. Here’s a breakdown of these essential requirements:

Types of VoIP Communications Covered Under HIPAA

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

Risks for Noncompliance

HIPAA compliance isn’t just about avoiding fines, although those can be significant. A data breach can trigger a cascade of negative consequences that can cripple your healthcare organization.

1. Financial strain

HIPAA violations can land you with hefty fines, ranging from a couple hundred bucks to a a whopping $2 million per year.

But that’s just the start.

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

Patients whose information gets exposed might sue, leading to expensive settlements and lawyer fees. Even worse, a breach can shake patient trust. When people worry their data isn’t secure, they’re less likely to share openly with you, and that can hurt your bottom line.

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.

2. Reputational damage

If patients don’t trust you with their information, they might be hesitant to come back for future appointments or share details crucial for their care.

On top of the financial woes, a data breach can seriously damage your reputation. News travels fast, and a HIPAA violation can paint a big red target on your organization. People might start questioning your reliability and trustworthiness.

Healthcare data breaches from 2009-2023
Via The HIPAA Journal

3. Operational disruption

Dealing with a breach is a whole other headache. Investigations take time and resources away from what matters most: taking care of patients. Recovering lost data can be a complex and expensive process too.

Investing in HIPAA-compliant VoIP protects your patients’ privacy, keeps your organization safe from hefty fines and lawsuits, and lets you focus on what you do best – providing excellent patient care.

VoIP Compliance Best Practices for HIPAA in Healthcare

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.

With stricter cybersecurity requirements expected in 2024, it’s crucial to review and strengthen your current protocols. Invest in training to ensure your team understands HIPAA’s significance and can recognize and report phishing incidents, which accounted for 45% of healthcare data breaches in 2021.

Phishing attacks in healthcare
Via Office of Information Security

Choosing the Best HIPAA-Compliant VoIP Provider

Given the sensitive nature of healthcare communications, a robust, secure, and reliable solution is essential.

Many major VoIP providers offer HIPAA-compliant solutions, often with features specifically catering to the healthcare industry. Conducting research will reveal several reputable options.

Here are some key factors to consider:

Why Nextiva Is a Top HIPAA compliant phone service

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.

FAQs on HIPAA Compliant Phone Service

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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