How to ensure your business’s HIPAA compliance

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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was enacted by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to protect patients’ health information (PHI). The act has a privacy rule that establishes national standards for the protection of certain health information and a security rule that aims to protect health information and medical histories that are held or transferred in electronic form.

It covers health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and any healthcare business associates or subcontractors that have access to patient information or provide support in treatment, payment, or operations. If your business handles PHI, make sure you have physical, network, and process security measures in place to comply with HIPAA.

Why is there a need for HIPAA?

Healthcare providers are digitizing their PHI and processes as evidenced by computerized physician order entry (CPOE), electronic health records (EHRs), and radiology, pharmacy, and laboratory systems. These methods increase business efficiency and mobility as well as reduce the security risks to their healthcare data.

According to the HIPAA Security Rule, covered entities can adopt new technologies to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care, but they also have to protect the privacy of individuals’ health information.

General Rules

The security rule requires covered entities to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all electronic patients’ health information (e-PHI) they create, receive, maintain, or transmit, which means they cannot disclose PHI to unauthorized entities and alter or destroy said information without securing necessary permissions. The information should also be accessible and usable on demand by an authorized person.

Moreover, healthcare organizations must review and modify their security measures to protect their e-PHI and ensure their workforce’s compliance in the ever-changing digital environment.

How can your business be HIPAA-compliant?

1. Administrative safeguards

The Administrative Safeguards provisions in the security rule require risk analysis as one of their security management processes. This means you have to conduct a complete inventory of all your systems, including all electronic devices for work. You also have to catalog devices such as employee-owned mobile devices used for business purposes and other internet-connected systems, whether hosted in-house or remotely.

Afterwards, you must identify potential risks and vulnerabilities facing each system and implement appropriate security measures to address identified risks. Conducting risk analysis should be an ongoing process, and you should periodically evaluate the efficiency of the security measures put in place.

After identifying and analyzing potential risks to your e-PHI, you should assign an official who will be responsible for developing and implementing the security policies and procedures. You have to provide appropriate authorization, training, and supervision to workforce members who work with e-PHI. You must also apply appropriate sanctions against workforce members who violate your security policies and procedures.

2. Physical safeguards

To ensure the safety of your PHI, your business should limit physical access to your facilities and implement procedures for proper usage and access to workstations and electronic media. You must also have specific policies regarding the transfer, removal, disposal, and reuse of electronic media.

3. Technical safeguards

Only authorized persons should be allowed to access e-PHI. Your business is obligated to implement hardware, software, and/or procedural mechanisms to record and examine access and other activity in information systems with e-PHI to prevent transmission of the information over an electronic network.

If you want to learn more about HIPAA, HITECH, and compliance in the healthcare industry, contact Integrated Technology Services. Our certified technicians can help you monitor your infrastructure, assess your security, and handle all your technology needs at a fixed monthly fee. Call us today!