Most industries deal with critical issues like cyber security and customer privacy. The healthcare sector faces similar challenges.
That is why HIPAA laws (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) are designed to protect the use of confidential healthcare information. This information is known as Protected Health Information (PHI).
PHI is any demographic information that can identify a patient. For example, a patient’s name, age, gender, address, and location. HIPAA requires covered entities and business associates to protect such information.
This is because healthcare data has a high value in the black market. This means cybercriminals might want access and use such information for personal gain.
HIPAA compliance ensures that PHI is safe from internal and external unauthorized access. Here are ten things businesses must do to ensure they are HIPAA compliant.
For example, a covered entity that implements cohesive HIPAA policies will, in turn, provide quality healthcare services to patients. A business associate implementing similar cohesive policies also provides quality services to a covered entity. This is according to the HIPAA business associate agreement contract.
A HIPAA business associate agreement contract is a legal contract between a covered entity and a business associate. It allows a business associate to access, send, process, and store PHI. A business associate performs such duties on behalf of a covered entity.
2. Address Specific Communication Policies Like Email
Email is a convenient method of communication, but it can be unsecure. It is essential to address email policies and ensure your ePHI is safe.
This is possible through encryption. The standards for sending health information using email according to HIPAA include encryption.
It is one of the appropriate ways of sending ePHI over the internet. It is important to train employees on such and best practices. Other measures include having strong passwords and understanding how to avoid phishing.
3. Regularly Review Privacy Policies
Privacy policies may change from time to time for various reasons. It is essential to regularly review policies to ensure health information remains safe.
Communicate in chunks to avoid overwhelming your staff with too much information. They should sign the new policy documents with the latest updates.
4. Hire an Information Security Staff
Hiring a security staff who focuses on HIPAA compliance can help your business to remain compliant. A dedicated security person is incharge of ensuring staff understands and implements HIPAA policies.
An information security staff trains employees and makes sure they understand all the complex details of HIPAA. This can help avoid HIPAA violations. Hiring a dedicated security staff is a good idea specifically for organizations that focus on healthcare.
5. Perform Regular Internal Audits
Regular internal audits help to identify any likelihood of a breach. Assessing systems and processes enable you to take corrective measures where necessary. This helps you to test your policies to make sure they are effective.
Regular internal audits are also a way to prepare for HIPAA audits. HIPAA audits can take place randomly.
If you perform regular quarterly internal audits, your business will be prepared for the random HIPAA audit. The best way to prepare is to use the HIPAA checklist for internal audits. This way, you ensure the HIPAA minimum standard applies.
6. Conduct Training
Educate all your employees and vendors about HIPAA security policies. This will help them know how to stay compliant and avoid penalties.
They will also understand why they should follow the laws and the consequences of noncompliance. Refresher training and continuous education will help all employees and vendors to stay updated in case of any changes in the HIPAA policies.
7. Create Awareness About Breach Notification
A data breach might occur at any time. It is important to know what the law expects you to do if a data breach occurs. Make sure you understand the steps you must follow to avoid further damages.
Reading HIPAA rules about breach notification can help you understand what a breach is all about. One of the requirements is to notify the individual affected by the breach.
In some situations, you might be required to inform the media. Make sure you provide timely notifications and follow the correct response plan. This will help you avoid further damage and comply with the HIPAA notification rules.
8. Establish Security Safeguard
Follow HIPAA security safeguards and stay compliant. The three safeguards you need to implement are.
- Administrative safeguards include documenting security and information management processes.
- Physical safeguards include physical access control to protect PHI.
- Technical safeguards include access control to databases where electronic health records are stored.
9. Notification Policies
This policy includes how a covered entity handles PHI. It also informs patients of their rights. Make sure your patients understand all their rights.
10 Have Secure Business Associate Relationships
Read and understand what HIPAA says about business associates. Understand the documentation needed and the obligations of covered entities and business associates.
HIPAA expects covered entities to get assurance from business associates that PHI is safe. This means a covered entity and business associates should understand HIPAA business associate agreements.
After understanding the agreement, business associates must sign business associate agreements. This allows them to do duties and handle PHI on behalf of covered entities.
Staying compliant with HIPAA laws is an exercise that requires diligence. Covered entities and business associates need to be committed to continuous HIPAA education.
This will help your business implement updated policies and prepare for random HIPAA audits. Compliance also helps you avoid costly fines and saves the reputation of your business.
These measures will help keep information safe, and customers will trust your business. This leads to loyalty and a long-lasting relationship.