As the world moves toward an increasingly digital way of life, businesses move with it—including healthcare providers. Fewer people carry cash, and using checks is a rare occurrence. As you grow your dental practice's pool of patients, you will likely accept credit card payments if you don't already. Successfully implementing HIPAA-compliant payment processing, such as Dental Intelligence's payment solution, will keep your patients' private information secure.
The Basics of HIPAA-Compliant Payment Processing
HIPAA regulations state that any payment processor that only processes transactions of a healthcare facility is not a business associate. For example, if you only use a payment processor for credit card transactions when patients pay for services, that payment processor is simply providing standard financial transaction services and is not conducting a HIPAA-covered transaction.
However, when your payment processor provides additional services, such as reporting or practice management, HIPAA then considers it a business associate. So how can your practice stay HIPAA-compliant? Your practice and the payment processor must enter into a business associate agreement (BAA).
Under the BAA, the payment processor applies features and agreements that secure protected health information (PHI).
A breakdown of who is who in this agreement can help you better understand how the BAA functions as a whole:
- All transactions begin with the cardholder. In your case, the patient holds the credit card that pays for the services.
- The issuing bank approves the cardholder's transaction to transfer funds to pay for the dental service.
- Your practice is the merchant: you provide a service for which the cardholder pays.
- An acquiring bank has a relationship with your practice that allows you to obtain payment for your services.
You want to ensure that the way your practice processes payment and your acquiring bank or financial institution are HIPAA-compliant.
How to Choose the Right Payment Processor
The rise of digital transactions has exposed the weaknesses in how any business keeps its information confidential. Hackers can access information while communication occurs during the payment process, which puts a patient's information and money at risk. Dental practices should not save cardholder information, including name, card number, and other details, to prevent any data breaches.
Choose a processor that follows the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards or PCI DSS. These standards apply to the following cards:
The DSS offers several directives to combat hacking instances or breaches of payment card industry data. Use these directives to learn how your practice's payment security stacks up against its recommendations:
- Eliminate as much retained data as possible from network storage devices
- Protect system and network access points
- Act quickly and efficiently against breaches
- Monitor authorized access
- Protect any stored data with the appropriate protection structures
While these points are the building blocks for all businesses that take card payments, payment processors who follow these and other listed DSS points are a great place for you to start.
Implementing HIPAA-Compliant Payment Best Practices for Your Dental Office
Sharing a BAA with a DSS-compliant payment processor is the first step in implementing HIPAA-compliant best practices for your dental health provider. Another best practice for all healthcare professionals is to keep all PHI secure both during the payment process and in general. Only information strictly pertinent to the payment process should be provided.
Avoid transmitting receipts by text message or a non-encrypted email address. Make it clear to your payment processor that they shouldn't do so either. Keep your encryption technology updated. Outdated technology is notorious for its vulnerabilities to a hacker's evolving skills. Implement chip readers on your POS and always use them when applicable. Finally, avoid storing all unencrypted card information, whether by paper or electronically.
Digital Dental Solutions That Fit Your Practice Needs
Growing your dental practice means building a good reputation. A good reputation requires patients who feel secure during each step of routine visits, from the waiting room to the final payment. Dental Intelligence provides a myriad of management solutions, including dental patient financial integration. While we focus on the daily minutiae, you can focus on the most important part—treating your patients. Schedule a demo with us today to learn more about our secure, HIPAA-compliant payment processing software and more digital tools to streamline day-to-day operations in your dental practice.