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Understanding and Implementing HIPAA Compliance in Your Practice

Compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a critical aspect of any healthcare organisation’s security measures. Businesses must take proactive steps to ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations. Understanding HIPAA compliance rules and best practices is important to ensure compliance.

What is HIPAA Compliance?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, generally known as HIPAA, is a set of regulatory qualities that figure out the lawful use and disclosure of protected health information (PHI). HIPAA compliance is modulated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and enforced by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

OCR’s role in conserving medical HIPAA compliance comes in the form of routine counsel on emerging issues affecting healthcare and in the investigation of common HIPAA violations.

Through a series of interconnected regulatory rules, HIPAA compliance is a living culture that healthcare organisations must implement into their business to protect the privacy, security, and integrity of protected health information. Learn more about becoming HIPAA compliant with Compliancy Group’s software solutions and HIPAA compliance training.

What Problems Does HIPPA Compliance Solve?

Any organisation that handles health data or PHI must ensure that its security program is. And software controls meet the requirements of HIPAA’s security and privacy rules. Covered establishments that observe these rules can process, store, and transfer PHI without fright of civil or criminal penalties.

Note that HIPAA rules set a minimum standard for implementing IT controls and software security. Without these rules, organisations processing PHI have no specific requirements to protect their health data. (i.e., to maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data).

HIPAA Compliance Practices

  • Appliance policies and procedures to make sure compliance and enforcement of the security, use, and disclosure of PHI to third parties.
  • Implement appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to cushion the privacy of PHI.
  • Conduct ongoing monitoring, evaluation, and review, as necessary, of business processes and operations to ensure ongoing compliance. And the fulfilment of HIPAA standards in response to any environmental, operational, workforce, technical, or legal changes.
  • Implement a training plan that informs all employees of all policy and procedure requirements that apply to them in their roles. And instruct all employees on HIPAA policies and procedures and the use/disclosure of PHI upon employment and annually thereafter.

Implementing HIPAA Rules

The first step to complying with HIPAA is to read and understand the law and its amendments. And the second step is to translate the law and its rules into working policies and procedures. This means complying with the use and disclosure requirements of the Privacy Rule and the security standards outlined in the Security Rule. Finally, the third step is to implement policies and procedures:

  • Create and display usage and posting guidelines
  • Create up-to-date risk analysis and management strategies
  • Continuously audit and update cybersecurity methods
  • Use separate and offline backups for sensitive information
  • Apply physical and technical access control to systems, networks, and storage
  • Keep your employees aware and aware of HIPAA
  • Use anti-virus and anti-malware software
  • Use encryption and other similar measures for secure HIPAA-compliant communications (e.g., HIPAA-compliant email).

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What is HIPPA Violation?

A HIPAA violation is a failure to obey a HIPAA regulation or standard. The law is 115 pages long and there are hundreds of ways an organisation can break the rules. By far the most common violation is failure to obtain a risk assessment or analysis. Others include violations of the Notice of Privacy Practices provided to patients.

Other examples of HIPAA violations:

  • Discussing Protected Health Information (PHI) in Public.
  • Allowing unauthorised access to PHI (inadequate access controls).
  • Improper Disposal of PHI.
  • Failure to manage risk or implement improper security measures around PHI.
  • Failure to maintain and detect PHI access logs.
  • Failure to sign HIPAA-compliant business associate agreements with vendors.
  • Not providing patients with copies of their PHI upon request.
  • Does not implement access controls around PHI.
  • Failure to close access rights to PHI when no longer needed.
  • Failure to provide HIPAA and security awareness training.
  • Theft of patient records or PHI storage devices through office break-ins or other means.
  • Unauthorised Use, Release, and Disclosure of PHI.
  • Posting PHI online or on social media without permission.
  • Improperly sending PHI, including sending emails or text messages with unencrypted e-PHI.
  • Failure to encrypt e-PHI or use an alternative method to prevent unauthorised disclosure or access.
  • Failure to notify relevant individuals (or the Office for Civil Rights) of cyber-attacks or breaches involving PHI within 60 days of discovery.
  • Failure to document compliance efforts.

Three Security Tips for HIPAA Compliance

o   Strict login measures: Ensure that only authorised users have access to PHI by implementing strict standards for ID and password complexity. Ensure that users change their default passwords immediately. And ensure that systems are in place that require regular password changes.

o   Regular Activity Logging: Ensuring your IT staff and systems are logging everything will help you achieve HIPAA compliance by continuously monitoring and documenting PHI events. Implement the right data logging and monitoring technology so you have evidence of where PHI is located, who viewed it, and whether a breach occurred.

o   Take a multi-layered approach: User IDs and logins are only one layer of a potential HIPAA crack. You’ll also need to examine the security measures taken at various other layers, including networks, systems, software, and firewalls. Don’t simply use the default configurations, for example, which may be more prone to breaking.

Conclusion

HIPAA compliance is not voluntary, and the failure to observe HIPAA can be costly to your reputation. The absence of a formal HIPAA certification scheme means that it is up to the organisation to supply reliable evidence of compliance, both to its customers and to external regulators. Failure to be proactive and address potential compliance deficiencies could result in significantly higher fines in the event of a violation or other OCR investigation.

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