If you’re one of the many employees who have worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. According to the European Commission, approximately 35-40 percent of employees across the globe have worked from home most or all of the time since the spring of 2020.

It appears this remote work trend won’t fade away after the pandemic. About 80 percent of company leaders plan to let their employees work remotely at least part-time after the outbreak, and almost half of employees plan to work from home full-time once the pandemic is over.

Productivity doesn’t seem to have decreased for many employees working remotely. More than half of workers disclose that they’ve been more productive working from home during the pandemic due to fewer interruptions, more focused time, a quieter work environment, a more comfortable workplace, and a lack of office politics. That’s not a big surprise given that research shows that companies that allow their employees to work from wherever they want to achieve increased employee productivity, reduced turnover, and lower organizational costs.

Some companies, like medical billing providers, utilize a hybrid virtual model, in which some employees work on-premise and other work remotely. This type of model could result in huge savings for the healthcare industry because almost 30 percent of workers report being willing to take a 10-20 percent pay cut to work remotely

Keep Sensitive Data Secure

Not all medical billing professionals and other healthcare workers are able to work remotely, although telehealth[1]  has enabled physicians to see patients virtually while still achieving proper reimbursement from the United States government. For any medical billing provider or other healthcare entity considering expanding its remote work policy, we have some recommendations on maintaining employee engagement and mitigating the risk of cybercrime.

Healthcare enterprises that create, receive or transmit PHI protected health information (PHI) must ensure they comply with the Security Rule of HIPAA and its administrative, physical, and technical safeguards. Without plans and processes to achieve this, they risk costly civic and/or criminal penalties, a damaged reputation, and decreased customer loyalty.

To ensure data is kept secure, companies letting their employees work remotely should consider employing up-to-date technologies and software such as cloud antivirus products, email encryption technology, a virtual desktop infrastructure, single sign-on (SSO) and two-factor authentication. They also should back up important data, especially for the purpose of disaster recovery.

Another important step is performing a comprehensive risk assessment to identify, address, and correct any security weaknesses. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) notes that risk must be gauged based upon factors such as the probability of occurrence, impact on the organization, and as the prioritization of the risk and should be conducted or reviewed regularly and at least once per year. Healthcare entities of all sizes also should develop an incident response plan, and test it regularly.

Other recommendations include defining access authorizations for all devices, regularly reviewing access permissions, keeping track of what devices employees are using to access PHI, prohibiting employees from connecting to public Wi-Fi networks using a device with access to PHI and verifying PHI and other data is encrypted in transit and at rest. Remote employees should be provided with the solutions they need to do their part in keeping sensitive data secure.

Communicate Regularly with Employees

In addition to utilizing technology to keep data secure, medical billing companies and other healthcare enterprises should communicate regularly with their employees who work remotely to keep them updated and ensure there are no obstacles to high-quality customer service. This can be accomplished by emails and phone calls, but sometimes a video chat provides employers with a way to connect employees who don’t see each other often and encourage and promote collaboration.

Creating and maintaining a list of policies and procedures specific to remote employees can provide a documented guide outlining their responsibilities and any regulations specific to them. Building and maintaining a level of trust with these workers is essential in ensuring that both employer and employees benefit from this type of working arrangement.

Check out this video to see how 4D Global ensures that we are HIPAA Compliant.

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