In today’s digitized era, health information is constantly maintained online in the cloud – allowing easy access. Therefore, the need to protect the security of personal information has lately gained significant traction. Compliance with data security acts like HIPAA has become more apparent than ever to protect sensitive information from becoming vulnerable.
Healthcare professionals are sifting through oceans of critical personal health information daily. Amidst this, unforeseen breaches also have a greater probability of occurrence. Albeit uncommon, patient data violations can occur even in the most efficient healthcare facilities. The formation of standards like the nordlayer.com helps guarantee the approachability and privacy of health information and protects from data infringements.
What is HIPAA compliance?
Based on the privacy rule set forth by HIPAA, you should always secure the personalized medical data of patients. The rule highlights predefined boundaries and restrictions on the user and reporting of information. It also allows patients to acquire a copy of their health-related details and request edits if required.
A home address is not PHI if you’re ordering something from Amazon to your residence. But the same address is PHI if shared with a healthcare service provider. The authorities can specify the crucial information that needs security as covered entities should conform with HIPAA.
Who needs to be aware of HIPAA compliance?
The first and foremost task is to bear in mind that sensitive information about any individual or organization should fall under two major headings:
Any PHI conveyed electronically falls under a covered entity. The HIPAA regulation ensures the secure transmission of this data. It includes organizations like healthcare and insurance providers and healthcare clearinghouses.
If your organization is assigned some contractual work on behalf of a covered entity, it is named as a business associate based on regulations set forth by HIPAA. Many companies fall under this category as service providers and may need to handle sensitive PHI. Some of the most prominent examples are IT providers, storage device suppliers, email hosting services, fax services, etc.
Significance of becoming HIPAA-compliant
Although HIPAA compliance is a grave matter, companies still do not adopt it or take it too seriously. This can give rise to an array of problems in the future since the initial money spent to achieve compliance is far less when compared to the consequences of non-compliance.
Based on the 2018 Healthcare Benchmark Report, around 20% of healthcare companies have at least one full-time working staff member handling and administering matters related to compliance. At the same time, 13% of companies rely on part-time workers to handle this job. On a side note, however, compliance truly falls under every employee’s responsibility since they collectively affect so many working levels within an organization.
Now let’s delve into some of the practical details on how to become HIPAA compliant:
Allocating a confidentiality officer
If you want to transform your organization by making it HIPAA compliant, you need one dedicated privacy officer who serves and maintains this regularly. This person is also the one you have to contact if a healthcare data breach occurs or if you need to perform an audit according to the standards set forth by government authorities.
It is, however, necessary that the privacy officers have at least some form of legal or technology experience to implement procedures that safeguard this sensitive information. They can belong to departments like Information Technology, Human Resources, or third-party vendors. Additionally, appointing a privacy officer is one of the essential components of becoming HIPAA compliant.
Developing methods and procedures
After you have decided on who the specific individual will be to assign the critical title of a privacy officer, the next task is to jot down a list of dos and don’ts. The documentation helps employees understand how to perform their daily tasks without becoming subject to anything that does not follow HIPAA policies.
Developing risk evaluation procedures
Implementing a risk assessment plan is significant to filter out anything that might pose unnecessary risks to the organization’s daily work procedures. You need to perform this task annually, either internally or externally, to avoid unforeseen mishaps. The goal is to formulate a documented record before audit teams for further risk assessment.
Notifying the concerned department in the required time frame is crucial in becoming HIPAA compliant if a breach occurs. A seamless notification process helps these teams swiftly overcome network breaches and mitigate any losses that might occur along the lines. These violation notifications should give the concerned departments ample time to resolve the issue through the involvement of appropriate officials or departments.
Business Associate Agreements
If other companies you’re working with have access to PHI, you must have Business Associate Agreements (BAA). However, if you are not sure if the Business Associate Agreement is needed, you can always check Hushmails’ article on BAAs and read more about it. It is a signed document like an agreement that helps maintain HIPAA compliance – allowing shared liability just in case a data breach occurs. Employees also prefer working remotely for organizations that are HIPAA compliant as they know that all protection policies are implemented.
Enforcing HIPAA training programs
Last but not least, you must ensure that every employee having access to PHI must go through regular HIPAA training programs. These programs help establish a firm base and build employees’ awareness of the standards they need to maintain – encouraging the compliance culture. A robust training framework is equally critical for becoming HIPAA-compliant.
Becoming a HIPAA complaint may seem daunting at first. But, if you have a list of steps before you, it will help you see a clearer image of where to start and get the ball rolling. The process is a little complex, and many multinational companies often face challenges while securing sensitive data within their reach.
This article has helped you grasp all you need to know about HIPAA. But, this doesn’t mean that you are now entirely safe from committing violations. Henceforth, you should be mindful of one basic fact: Rigorous research and actionable plans can help boost your overall performance and avoid penalties for such violations.