iPlum and HIPAA

This is a little off topic but I would like an answer.

After ten years I dumped Google Voice and ported my number to iPlum. Went from a free service with spotty performance and no support to a paid service that at least works.

I had to give up free US to US calls. Now I pay $0.01 per minute. No more e-mail transcription but do get 15 voice mails a month. E-mail support instead of no support from Google

Here is my problem: iPlum interfaces with my contacts stored on the device. I have a contact called Spammers Blocked with over 100 numbers assigned to this contact.

Spammers Blocked is blocked at the System Level by name. I have started getting spam calls again. In GV I just easily added the number to the existing contact.

IPlum says due to HIPPA I cannot have the app add a number to an existing contact. I can only create new contacts in my device contacts.

I can initiate the new contact process, copy the number, open the contact directory, find Spammers Blocked, press add number, press paste, go back to the unfinished add contact window in the iPlum app and hit cancel so the number is not saved as a new contact.

Why on earth would the Add a Number to an existing contact be prevented under HIPPA but creating a new contact is fast and easy.

Whatever they are tring to prevent isn’t preventing anything, it is just making more steps and more work to add a spammer to an existing contact.

IPlum recuses to tell me why, tells me if I don’t like it, they will not charge me to port out my number and if I write a negative review they sue me.

The problem is all the VoIP providers are fighting over the same customer: a business with multiple lines. And pricing starts at $20 a minth. IPlum is less thann$5 a month.

Why is iPlum using a HIPPA excuse to not allow adding a number to an existing contact?

IANAL, but that sounds pretty close to blackmail… but this has nothing to do with the thread at hand, and would be better to start a new topic to ask this question.

I asked it here because the person who posted about backups said he was a doctor and European privacy laws say his patient data cannot be stored off site. I thought maybe he’d know what was going on.

Welcome to TidBITS.

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@fogcitynative - HIPAA is the US version of the EU’s stricter GDPR, and both aim to protect patients’ information. If you’re an MD in the US (possibly also if you’re some other kind of healthcare provider), HIPAA rules apply. If you’re not a doctor, you’re free to share whatever you want with anyone using whatever technology and service you wish (patients are free to tell the world you have cancer; the doctor may not even divulge that you’re a patient, except to a colleague with whom he’s consulting). Even if you are a doctor, you can use any technology you wish to communicate confidential data, but it might be illegal and unethical to do so. It’s not the service’s - the app’s - responsibility to police you; the doctor, not the app, is bound by the law.

I don’t know details about who you are or what you do, but this iPlus stuff sounds strange to me. And that business about suing you for a negative review is downright enraging - and probably crap.

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“Even if you are a doctor, you can use any technology you wish to communicate confidential data, but it might be illegal and unethical to do so. It’s not the service’s - the app’s - responsibility to police you; the doctor, not the app, is bound by the law.”

Not quite. Everything is determined by the organization you work for. HIPAA is fundamentally a legal contract between specific organizations with the aim of matching the law. So, Hospital A has a contract with Microsoft for a HIPAA compatible version of Sharepoint, and Hospital A has a contract with MyChart for handling patient data, etc. Microsoft’s Sharepoint app does have the responsibility of meeting HIPAA and it’s often a different app that connects to different remote servers than Microsoft’s non-HIPAA versions.

To some extent the contracts are more concerned with CYA for administrators than actual security. Between responsible/capable organizations the security details are spelled out in great detail and strictly limit which software and/or protocols can be used between which endpoints for various types of data. With luck, that even gets enforced at multiple levels. Most of the end users such as doctors only need to follow the protocols set up by IT who implement the contract details agreed to by the admins. But the contract is king for what it covers. One doctor may be allowed to use any software that provides sftp from any of their devices. (A badly sloppy contract.) Another may be banned from using anything other than the specific heavily firewalled computers in the office. (Maybe a bit excessive, but preferable to sloppy assuming that IT is competent at the setup.)

I’ll be forever grateful that I never had to be more than peripherally aware of any of this…

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Have you tried WiFi calling? It works great for US to US as well as for international calls, and there’s no charge other than that of your local internet service’s monthly charge. FaceTime and iMessage also work over WiFi, so if iPlum is your ISP, you are set to go.

https://support.apple.com/kb/index?q=wifi+callng&src=globalnav_support&locale=en_US&type=organic&page=search

And there is no limit on the number, or duration, of calls. You can make WiFi calls anywhere you can find an internet connection, including McDonald’s or Starbucks. No extra charge.

Pardon my ignorance, but the only free international Wifi calls I know of (other than Google Voice) that are as you describe are the ones embedded in social media. I can do voice or video calls on Facebook, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom and probably some others.

The main requirement is both parties must use the same software. Other than Google Voice or Skype.

iPlum is a VoIP provider. They are not a carrier. They work over WiFi or Cellular. They provide a second line and phone number, mostly for businesses. Virtual PBX, multiple extensions, auto-attendant, etc.

But they are also like Skype, serving individuals with low prices for making and receiving calls on a real phone number. I could port in or out, so keeping my existing number was easy. They ported in my number from Google Voice in less than 24 hours. Anybody with a phone can call me if they know my number. From anywhere in the world.

Many of my calls are to U.S. businesses or government agencies. They all use phone numbers. Some are toll-free numbers, others just regular numbers assigned by their carrier. It doesn’t matter if their carrier is AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Comcast, Orange, Claro, Tigo, or Skype, there is a phone number involved to reach me from any network, not just clicking on a profile in software. But it isn’t free, just very inexpensive.

So I can literally call anyone in the U.S. or around the world, with a phone number. No need to preplan a FaceTime chat. No need for them to have any special software.

If I am on FaceTime I cannot call my friend who is on WhatApp or Facebook. So, indeed it is free, but it isn’t very flexible.

But maybe I am just from a different generation that grew up on POTS and phone numbers. I live outside the U.S. and many businesses here use WhatsApp chat. I make doctors and dentists appointments on WhatsApp, order boutique food to be delivered on WhatsApp. It is very handy.

But if need to reach AppleCare in the U.S. it is an 800 number. As far as I know, they aren’t doing support over social media. But maybe I am misinformed? They do have chat off their website, but I prefer to actually talk to someone and screen share when appropriate.

Most of my friends are middle-aged or older. I’m 100 times more technical than they are. And the kids and younger generation is 1,000 times more technical than me. Older people like me are used to the workflow of telephone numbers. I call, or they call me, it rings, even if no app is launched. No need to pre-plan a meeting or call or teach them what app they need to download, so we can have a conversation.

Anybody in the U.S. calls my U.S. iPlum number never pays anything. If I call them from outside the U.S. using WiFi, or accept their call, it is $0.01 per minute. A penny a minute. That is from outside the U.S.

Inside the U.S. my carrier has unlimited local and LD calls, texts, and data. So, I just use the cellular network in the U.S. I even get international outbound calling to a group of countries for free as part of the plan.

So, if my understanding is faulty, and it could be, as it is hard to stay on top of technology, please reply and tell me. You CAN teach an old horse new tricks, at least this old horse.

If you have an either an iPhone, iPad or even an Apple Watch, and a WiFi connection, you can use Apple’s WiFi calling:

Just like you can text with Android users with your iPhone, you can use WiFi calling to speak to them. Android has a version of WiFi calling:

WiFi calling is a version of VOIP calling, and it works across devices. But you and the person you are calling do need to be in range of a router and you both need to have WiFi Calling turned on.

I just did some checking, and your mobile service provider does need to allow it. The major service providers in the US do support it, but I don’t know about Spain or your carrier. It’s worth it to check.

It is going to vary from carrier to carrier.

With Verizon (my carrier), when I turn it on, the phone connects to Verizon’s voice network servers using the Internet (I assume using some SSH-like encrypted connection) instead of the global cellular network. They treat all such calls as coming from my home location, no matter where in the world I might be (that is, no international roaming charges).

Of course, I’m responsible for the Internet traffic, which might be metered.

The person at the other end of the call can’t distinguish these calls from a call I originate via the cellular network.

From what I’ve read here, however, other carriers are different. Some appear to count this traffic as voice minutes on an international calling plan. And you just described one where you can only use it to call other people on the same network who are also using Wi-Fi calling (which makes it more like FaceTime Audio than a normal phone call.)

Thanks for the clarification.

Yes, some cellular carriers do allow wifi calling. Not always on iPhone, as it is harder to do if apple doesn’t publish ways to access their device. But I am sure it is easier on Android.

Here’s the problem for me. I don’t want to pay $60 to $100 a month for cell service.

I had T-Mobile with their add-on International plan: unlimited roaming. I accidentally allowed the App Store to update my apps over cellular data. I am in Berlin, Germany. I don’t speak a word of German. I am dependent upon maps and text on my cell phone. And T-Mobile turned off my roaming. All I was left with was cellular voice, pay per minute internationally, and WiFi.

So I dumped T-Mobile from Berlin and had a friend send me the GoogleFi SIM. By the time I received it I was in Poland. It was not possible to port my Google Voice number to Google Fi, so I took a new number. GoogleFi works in 203 countries around the world. Land in a country, turn on the phone, it works. It is $20 per month. Data anywhere in the world is $10 per GB.

I do not stream media on my iPhone. I don’t download or upload anything over cellular data. I only have things like Mail, Maps, Google Search, Firefox, NYT, and other programs that use very little data turned on to allow cellular data. I do everything else over wifi. My bill is seldom over $30 a month.

But GoogleFi has INSANE rates for cellular voice calls. $0.20 per minute. Google Voice has lower rates and calls from my GV U.S. number to any other U.S. number are free. However, the Google Voice App for iOS has only two preferences: Use Cellular Voice 100% (perfectly fine for when I am in the U.S.) or PREFER WiFi but can switch secretly to cellular voice if it feels the call quality would be better.

The only way I knew it switched to cellular voice is when I got the $55 bill for voice calls. A 60 minute call to AppleCare or the IRS is $12. No thanks.

And when people were calling me on my Google Voice number, the phone wasn’t ringing. Or my computer would ring with no notification to answer the call.

Since GV is free, there is no technical support from Google. Just a community board to post your question for volunteers to answer. And they close all discussion within a few days. Even if the problem was never solved.

Google Voice was invented to give you o e number that would run g all your other numbers, both mobile and landlines. It WAS great when I never left the U.S. and was working at job with DID lines. DID are Direct Inward Dial trunks for companies with PBX service.

For more than 10 years I have used Google Voice to call back to the U.S. for free from overseas. It only needs wifi to work. But with the introduction of Google Fi, works anywhere, the integration with Google Voice was just not working.

After months of frustration and friend asking why I never answered their calls, I discovered Google Voice was allowing numbers to be ported out. I couldn’t dump Google Voice fast enough.

iPlum ported my number in a day. It is like $4.19 a month and includes 200 credits. Each credit costs one cent. A call to the U.S. from anywhere is one credit per minute. That $12 one hour call on GV is now $0.60 on iPlum.

My phone rings, I have voice mail, I have SMS, it is a full feature virtual PBX. More designed for business with a distributed mobile workforce. And they respond to technical support questions in less than 24 hours. It is missing a few of GV’s features, but damn it, the thing works and the sound quality is better.

Still have GoogleFi for mobile data and SMS verification messages, as they require a real cell phone number.

Sorry this is so long. Most of my calls are to businesses in the U.S. and they still all use phone numbers.

Hello Norman,
I am part of iPlum support. We are very customer centric. You had contacted us on our website asking these same questions and we responded to you via emails multiple times which you actually acknowledged but it may not be still clear to you because you came here to post the same questions.

Let the experts help you directly at iPlum:

  1. There is no correlation between HIPAA and creating a spam contact in iPlum contact. You asked for something in contacts security and that why we told you about the HIPAA compliance for business contacts security. Please read this link for managing contacts in iPlum app. How to manage business contacts in iPlum.

  2. iPlum provides its own spam blocking technology. You can block spam numbers either individually or wild card in iPlum app or iPlum portal. Please read this detailed link explaining it. How to block numbers in iPlum.

  3. In spite of us responding to your every email with detailed responses to help you, you threatened us about writing negative reviews, that is when we asked you to slow down.

If you still have any question about any features, you can contact us and we will help you.

Yours Best,
iPlum Team

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Thank you for your message. If you will read my message I never threatened to write I negative review. I said I don’t want to write a negative review and I did not.

I just wanted some answers regarding how I could manage my device contacts from within iPlum. I am sorry if my example of keeping 60 phone numbers under a device contact called Spammers Blocked confused you. It was in one of your responses that your brought up the whole HIPPA thing, which only applies to the contacts stored on your servers, not to the ones on my device and just confused the entire issue.

I think it is great you have HIPPA and Financial compliant servers and databases. Most companies don’t. But I am not in the medical or financial services arenas, so I don’t need to adhere to those rules.

I finally figured out there are hidden controls that do not show up on the dashboard until I click on my phone number in the dashboard. Some of the hidden controls also appear in the sidebar.

It was in the hidden controls that I found the blocked numbers link. A .csv list of blocked numbers cannot be uploaded. I had to enter them one at a time. But it worked. Cut and paste, and your software formatted each number perfectly. It went quickly.

You did explain in one of your e-mails that while my device contacts do show up in 1Plum contacts, all blocking takes place against the business contacts only.

So, if I receive a spam call, I click block and it gets blocked on your server and isn’t saved as a contact. One click and it is done.

My old way of blocking served me very well while using Google Voice. All those Spammers Blocked numbers are now in the Blocked Numbers database in iPlum. While I do not give out my device’s assigned numbers, they can still receive calls from Robo Dialers. So having Spammers Blocked as a system wide blocked device contact still has value, no? Because it also blocks spam e-mails too.

I still do not understand why in iPlum I cannot add a number to an existing contact in my device contacts.

For example, my friend Steve calls me on a new number I haven’t seen before. Maybe he leaves a message when I don’t answer. Steve changed jobs and wants me to have his new work number. Or Steve is on assignment or on vacation and there is no cell service but a land line works for the next two weeks. Or his cell phone is broken and he’s using one of his kids devices or a spare for a few days.

Steve is already in my device contacts. I just want to add his new number easily, then maybe go back to delete the one that doesn’t work anymore or if this was a temporary number, delete it when it no longer reaches Steve. All this exists only in my device contacts, which as you say, this has nothing to do with HIPPA, Spam, or Blocked contacts.

There is a workaround to getting the new number into Steve’s record. It’s convoluted and requires cut and paste, but it works. I’d like to see if you might consider making it as easy as adding a new contact. which you software does very well. And of course hoping you continue working on a desktop version of iPlum.

I actually wrote you a very positive review. 9 points out of 10. I think your documentation could be better. I prefer to see everything in the documentation, table of contents and index if one is created. Why use a bunch of separate linked articles outside the documentation? Why aren’t the credits detailed in the documentation?

I am a pretty experienced user of computers and software. I am not averse to reading the manual. Yet so many times I came up against things that were not easy for me to understand or to find answers.

All told though, iPlum is far superior to Google Voice in every respect other than cost. But I gave up a free service for a paid service because iPlum is better and worth the reasonable amounts you charge. You should be proud that people walk away from or outright reject a free service like Google Voice to use iPlum.

I have a virtual fax line with another provider that gets very little use, maybe 5 times a year. But I just know the minute I cancel the line, I’ll run up against some company, somewhere, that only accepts fax messages.

How much would it cost to port my fax line to iPlum? If I have to buy another $4.xx monthly line with 200 credits, are the credits usable on both the VoIP line and the fax line? I will never use 200 credits of faxing. My current provider charges like $3.95 monthly just to maintain the line and then $0.10 per page send or receive. No fax activity, no extra charge/

I was growing to hate Google Voice. Very happy I made the switch.

Norm

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Hi,
Thank you for your feedback. The team here is constantly adding and enhancing existing features including contacts management in iOS and Android app to help our users.
Yes, you can port your existing fax number to iPlum by creating a sub-account in your iPlum portal. Currently the lowest plan is our measured plan $4.17/mo paid annually. It includes 500 pages per year. You can check the details on the pricing page. If you are an occasional fax user, that is a good plan.

Best
iPlum Team

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