If you’re like us, you didn’t get a degree in ophthalmology or optometry because you were passionate about data security and compliance. You chose this path because you’re passionate about improving people’s lives, about bringing clarity of sight to your patients. Yet here you are, reading the article we wrote about data security and compliance for an outsourced customer service team. Something likely neither of us would have chosen to do when we first aspired to run our own eye care clinic.
But a security breach can happen. And letters of non-compliance show up in our mailboxes. Sometimes we get fined. Whether we like it or not, data security and compliance have become unignorable for a modern clinic. Keeping up with the changes in privacy laws, ceaseless advancements in a cyber attack, and best practices in data protection – these tasks have fallen on our already full plates.
You may have already outsourced your customer service team, and now you want to ensure you are compliant and secure. Or you’re considering outsourcing to lighten your administrative burden. Yet, you are concerned about security and compliance, making the decision unclear.
Through this article, let’s clarify the key aspects of security and compliance in outsourcing. We’ll look at the security standards that a Business Process Outsourcing, aka a BPO company, would provide so you can either apply them to your existing outsourcing or know what to look for when you do.
The Challenges of Keeping Up with Security and Compliance
No one said running an eye care clinic would be easy. Balancing patient care with business management was always going to be a complex dance. However, the whirlwind of security and compliance has added more intricate steps to that dance.
Take HIPAA, for instance. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – a statute that sought to protect patient data – had profound implications for any healthcare organization. Compliance meant revamping our patient record systems, training staff in handling procedures for sensitive information, and even rethinking physical office layouts to safeguard a patient’s personal information.
It was a massive undertaking. Yet, it was just the tip of the regulatory iceberg. The payment card industry data security standard (PCI DSS), the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – the list of regulations goes on, each bringing with it new obligations, new complexities.
Keeping up can feel like a never-ending treadmill. And this isn’t just about the present. The rise in global consciousness about data privacy and security means we’re also running toward more regulations that will be even more strict data security policies.
Moreover, the task isn’t just arduous; it’s highly technical. Ensuring security isn’t simply about installing and calling an antivirus a day. It involves vulnerability assessments, intrusion detection systems, security event and incident management, encryption, two-factor authentication, and more. Each of these requires technical knowledge and ongoing monitoring and management to stay ahead of evolving threats.
As owners and managers of eye care clinics, we are medical experts first. Your day might start with patient appointments, continue with staff management, and end with wading through paperwork. In between, you’re trying to stay up-to-date with new technologies and procedures to improve patient care, overseeing billing and insurance claims, and ensuring that the clinic runs smoothly.
Yet, amid all this, you’re also expected to be an expert in data security and compliance. And let’s be real. This struggle becomes even more intense as your practice grows because so does the technical support for all of the patient data you handle. More locations mean more devices, more networks, more points of entry for potential attacks. It also means a more significant challenge in ensuring that all your employees are trained and following the proper procedures to maintain security and compliance.
In the face of these challenges, feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and even a little frustrated is completely understandable. After all, you are not a data security expert or a compliance officer. You’re an eye care professional.
How BPOs stay secure and compliant
Outsourcing your customer service or other administrative functions certainly helps with operational efficiency. However, ensuring that your clinic remains secure and compliant in the process can still be quite the challenge.
Let’s walk through how a BPO service provider like us tackles security protocols and compliance.
First, we employ a multi-faceted approach toward security. We maintain an updated inventory of all devices and software our clinic uses. This allows us to identify potential vulnerabilities and keep all software patched and up-to-date. We enforce strong user access controls, ensuring only authorized personnel can access sensitive patient data. Another part of our routine is regular security audits, penetration testing, and vulnerability assessments, which aid in identifying and fixing any security gaps.
Regarding compliance, BPOs stay abreast of all relevant regulations, such as HIPAA for healthcare providers in the United States. We have procedures in place to ensure that all operations are in line with these regulations. For instance, we would routinely train all staff on privacy policies, enforce encryption of sensitive data, and ensure that all communication channels are secure.
Now, if you’re already outsourcing, these specifics can guide you in evaluating your existing setup and identifying areas of improvement. Ask yourself: Are these data security measures being taken? Is there a thorough understanding of the regulatory requirements in your current operations?
Evaluating a BPO’s Security and Compliance
Whether you’re considering transitioning to a BPO or simply aiming to learn from their strategies, let’s assess a BPO’s security and compliance standards. Here are a few key pointers to guide you:
- Certifications: Reputable BPOs will hold industry-specific certifications, showcasing their adherence to global standards. For instance, in the realm of data security, look for ISO certifications like ISO 27001 or compliance with HIPAA. These certifications are a testament to a BPO’s commitment to security and compliance.
- Client Testimonials and Case Studies: Client testimonials give you a sense of customer satisfaction with a BPO from those who’ve experienced it first-hand. In addition, case studies provide insights into how the BPO firm has handled security and compliance challenges, like a data breach.
- Security Measures: Dig into the specifics of the BPO’s security infrastructure. What kind of cybersecurity measures do they employ? How do they handle data encryption, access controls, and threat detection? The more robust and comprehensive their security measures, the more protection they can offer your data and operations.
- Compliance Monitoring and Reporting: Regular compliance monitoring and reporting is a must. A BPO should be able to provide regular updates showcasing their compliance status, any potential issues, and the actions taken to address them. It’s not just about meeting compliance requirements; it’s about continuously maintaining them.
- Response to Security Incidents: A good BPO has measures in place to prevent and respond efficiently to security incidents. Ask about their incident response plan. How quickly do they react? How do they ensure minimal impact on operations? Their preparedness for these scenarios speaks volumes about their commitment to security.
Applying these evaluation criteria to your existing outsourcing arrangements can help you identify gaps and improvement areas. It’s also a step towards better understanding and enhancing your security and compliance stance.