If your organization works in the healthcare industry, you are likely aware of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This US legislation requires healthcare organizations to secure the patient data or protected health information (PHI) they handle against unlawful use and sharing.
What is HIPAA compliance?
Adhering to HIPAA regulations means healthcare organizations must provide evidence that they have implemented all the policies established by HIPAA. This guideline applies to software vendors as well. If a vendor develops a HIPAA-compliant software solution, it is their responsibility to ensure its suitability in meeting those rules. By standardizing PHI transmission and storage, these specific HIPAA stipulations are fulfilled accordingly.
Through HIPAA compliance, hospitals, private practices, ancillary care providers, and other healthcare businesses are able to provide improved patient service and safety while also preserving their business’s reputation. Additionally, complying with HIPAA can drastically reduce costly financial outcomes that might otherwise be incurred as a result of noncompliance.
Who should comply with HIPAA regulations?
Organizations that are required to follow HIPAA regulations are called covered entities. They include:
- Healthcare providers – These include most hospitals, clinics, doctors, pharmacies, nursing homes, psychologists, and dentists that conduct certain transactions digitally, such as electronically billing for their services.
- Health plans – These are company health plans, HMOs, health insurance companies, and some government programs that pay for healthcare like Medicaid and Medicare.
- Healthcare clearinghouses – These are entities that specialize in transforming nonstandard health information they receive from other entities into a standardized electronic format or data content and vice versa.
What happens if covered entities violate HIPAA regulations?
Under the Enforcement Final Rule of 2006, the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has the authority to impose financial sanctions (as well as corrective action plans) for covered entities that violate HIPAA regulations.
These penalties serve as a cautionary measure, guaranteeing that covered entities remain responsible for their actions (or inaction) when it comes to safeguarding patient privacy and confidential health data. Additionally, they must make sure patients can access their records whenever necessary.
HIPAA compliance checklist
The HIPAA compliance checklist has four essential components:
Thorough risk assessment
A risk assessment will help you recognize gaps and weaknesses in your current data security measures. You can conduct risk assessments through self-audits or have a consulting agency audit your organization. The goal is to identify which aspects of your systems and processes could lead to noncompliance.
Once you have identified all compliance risks, you should develop concrete plans that can solve these issues. It is important to remember that remediation strategies are not one-size-fits-all solutions, but rather, they must be tailored specifically for each of the distinct HIPAA rules: HIPAA Privacy Rule, HIPAA Security Rule, and the Breach Notification Rule.
Observe, report, and train
HIPAA compliance solutions provide automated reporting, making it easier to monitor, identify, and report incidents. With the various HIPAA rules that require administrative, physical, or technical safeguards, utilizing tools to automate reporting is highly beneficial. However, for your healthcare compliance efforts to be successful, employees must undergo training to ensure your preparedness pays off in the end.
Continuous risk management
Risk management is the practice of pinpointing, evaluating, and controlling potential threats that could jeopardize your organization. These risks can range from financial discrepancies, technological malfunctions, strategic miscalculations, human error, natural disasters, and cyberattacks.
The benefits of continuous risk management include:
- Increased understanding of potential risk across the entire organization
- Better conformity with internal guidelines and government regulations
- Enhanced workplace safety and security for workers and customers
Implementing risk management can demonstrate that your organization is taking the steps necessary to protect confidential patient and health information, such as strategies for mitigating risks.
Looking to leverage technology that is not only efficient but also compliant with HIPAA regulations? Cutting Edge Network Technologies understands the intricacies of IT in a heavily regulated industry and provides you with experienced healthcare technology management partners who can help. Give us a call today.