In recent times, we have been able to see quite an increase in the healthcare system modernization as well as the cutting-edge technology that supports this industry. Because of this, it has become important to secure the Protected Health Information (PHI) which includes names, contact numbers, addresses, social security numbers and a lot more.

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There is no doubt that we can have a lot of efficiency and advancement with the help of new technology, but there will be a risk for the sensitive information, as the data could be breached and unauthorized entities might access any confidential information. There is great pressure to provide the best quality care for the healthcare practices, and they have to comply with the data privacy rules of HIPAA. In order to maintain HIPAA security compliance a risk management plan, HIPAA training, as well as the best practices and protection measures, have their own importance.

Introduction to HIPAA Compliance

The term HIPAA means The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which was enacted in the year 1996. It is known to be a set of rules that need to be followed and implemented by the healthcare organizations to protect the PHI security, privacy and integrity. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) regulate it. Those organizations that happen to manage Protected Health Information (PHI) need to have network, security and process measures in place so that this particular information can be protected.

Tips to Stay Compliant with HIPAA?

Understand the Basics of HIPAA Non-compliance

In order to become HIPAA compliant, any organization coming in contact with PHI has to enforce some policies and procedures to protect the data. Normally a HIPAA violation occurs when one cannot properly enact and enforce policies and procedures, even if the PHI has not been accessed or disclosed by any unauthorized person.

It is worth mentioning that HIPAA violations can result due to a lack of proper risk analysis. Other than that, lack of employee training, inappropriate PHI disclosures and not reporting any breaches in the prescribed timeframe can be some of the main reasons for HIPAA non-compliance.

Get Professional Assistance

It can be quite risky to try to stay compliant with HIPAA without getting help from someone who understands its rules. It is important to engage with an independent and unbiased auditing team, which normally includes compliance experts and certified engineers. This way, you will be able to have legal advice, audit help and guidance regarding PHI privacy and security.

With the help of an IT auditor who is specialized in healthcare compliance, your IT department will be getting assistance in the initial risk analysis. Other than that, the auditor will also help you in establishing several other aspects of IT compliance which include different policies and procedures.

Conduct the Vulnerability Scans and Penetration Testing Regularly

The vulnerability scans are very helpful for uncovering any critical issues. These scans give proper details about how well your data and network are protected. Therefore, it gets important for any organization to ask its compliance experts and auditors to perform tests on a monthly or quarterly basis. It is also necessary to get a complete report on the internal, external and web application strategies for remediation.

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Make Sure that the Remote Workplaces are Compliant

In recent times, there has been a shift to remote work and this has resulted in difficulties regarding compliance and operations. It is worth mentioning that the healthcare practices are a target for the hackers, and a secure remote workspace for the staff is the only way to gear up against such attacks.

The best way is to enforce VPNs across the available devices and ensure that all the latest software patches have been installed. The security teams must also be ready for tackling different tasks like detecting any attacks, improving their incident response methods and reviewing the logs.

Cybersecurity Awareness Training is also Important

It can be a good idea to make the employees undergo HIPAA security awareness training in order to prevent any violations. The staff has to be trained on the general awareness topics of cybersecurity. These include having strong passwords, identifying the phishing scams, dealing with a potential breach and properly observing all the physical security measures. The organization needs to conduct training modules that are based on real-life scenarios and must be interactive, engaging and up-to-date.

Review all your Business Associate Agreements (BAAs)

An effective and proper BAA should be specific to data protection, accessing it and the services that are being rendered. The healthcare organization has to make sure that the BAAs are reviewed regularly with the customer or the client, and needs to be updated whenever required.

It is important to understand that the exposure to penalties for any entity is much higher under the HIPAA rules. An organization has to be motivated to make sure that all of its BAAs are compliant with HIPAA.

Data Encryption is Essential for HIPAA Compliance

The majority of PHI breaches are a result of loss or theft of mobile devices, as they contain unencrypted data. All of these breaches can be avoided if the PHI is encrypted. Although encryption is not a demand of the HIPAA regulations in every circumstance, it is always better to thoroughly evaluate and address this security measure.

If data encryption is not implemented properly, there are suitable alternatives available that can be used. When the data is encrypted, whether stored or transmitted, it becomes unreadable and cannot be used if there is an event of theft. In case of a loss of an encrypted device, HIPAA compliance is not breached when the patient data is exposed.

Bottom Line

When we talk about the health sector, technology is always evolving, and therefore, the organization has to anticipate the security risks before their occurrence. For every organization, it is important to implement the right security measures for protecting against data breaches and any HIPAA violations. With proper steps for HIPAA security compliance, one can mitigate any potential issues related to security.

Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s). 

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