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Reduced Errors for HIPAA-Compliant Senders
May 23, 2017

Reduced Errors for HIPAA-Compliant Senders

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Nikil Balakrishnan

Failing to maintain HIPAA compliance when sending direct mail can be one of the quickest ways to ruin your reputation. Even as technology has accelerated, the law requires that HIPAA-compliant senders offer direct mail as a means of receiving important notices like account statements and test results. However, traditional methods of sending direct mail can open your business up to liability and a loss of your reputation. Operations teams at these senders should consider switching to an API approach and saving costs in the long run through the efficiencies and synergies APIs unlock.

Because of the mechanisms relied upon by print and mail vendors, like FTPs, errors happen. When errors happen, they are costly. At a bare minimum, sizable delays occur in patients receiving notices or bills. In a worst case, the wrong information reaches patients, creating liability issues (and creating the potential for serious financial losses).

HIPAA-Compliant Workflows Today

When operations teams rely on FTPs to transfer valuable patient information to print and mail vendors, we tend to cringe. An FTP is a glorified folder that is still around decades after its invention due largely to inertia. It doesn’t provide visibility, does not exchange information, and is a black box into which HIPAA-compliant senders dump patient data and cross their fingers.

While you’re not sending marketing collateral, brand presentation is still vital for healthcare and insurance providers. Carefully curated customer experiences and collateral keep customers engaged and, hopefully, keep them current. With the precise time windows defined by HIPAA, the in-built delays in the traditional method become liabilities in the process.

Because they're unable to review samples in real time, HIPAA senders find themselves playing phone tag with account managers at print and mail vendors. The cycles burned trying to establish a two-way flow of information result in windows being missed, liabilities mounting, and customers falling behind on payments through no fault of their own.

On the off chance a print and mail vendor offers an API, it’s likely not up to scratch. Because these APIs are usually tacked on decades after the printer opens its doors, they are poorly architected and documented. They’re likely not RESTful, either, which means they’re a nightmare to navigate and do not return information in real-time. Many print shops claim to have an API yet don’t even employ one software engineer.

The net result of these inferior APIs is HIPAA compliant senders may voluntarily choose the FTP/phone tag route. For everyone but the printer, that is a losing scenario.

Reduced Errors with Lob's APIs

This is why Lob has architected our print and mail API. We began from day one with a focus on creating a two-way street with our APIs. For each request, we return a readable response, offering HIPAA compliant senders real-time updates. Paper notices aren’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean their sending need be stuck in the past.

With the extended creative control we offer HIPAA senders, we keep them in the loop on the whole process. From generation to mail events tracked through webhooks, customer experiences can be curated to create precious slack in the leash.

Beyond the applications in tracking, we offer the ability to set automated triggers. Rather than massive batch-and-dumps to a print vendor, collateral is mailed in total compliance with a patient’s unique timetable.

By leveraging both print and mail APIs and an address verification API, Lob customers can seamlessly verify the deliverability of an address before sending a mailpiece API call to that address by using our address verification endpoint, ensuring that the mail piece lands in the intended recipient’s mailbox. Our smartest customers consistently cleanse their databases to ensure that their customer’s addresses are up to USPS’s standards of deliverability. This preemptively avoids issues that could cause financial losses.

The Print Delivery Network

The aspect of Lob that delivers the most value to HIPAA-compliant senders is the print delivery network. In an industry where a two-day delay can flip receiving an on-time payment into getting mired in complicated delinquency procedures, timing matters. Because our delivery network automatically routes volume to the most efficient partner in terms of capacity and proximity, delivery speed is unparalleled. Our varied production nodes also build in redundancy that is not present in a 1-1 relationship with a print and mail vendor.

Superior visibility into the supply chain, branded collateral brought back in-house, and automated time-based triggers help HIPAA compliant senders deploy mail as easily as email. We’re living in an automation arms race; it’s about time healthcare began running in earnest.

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