Businesses operating in the healthcare industry are expected to follow the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA. This act, regulated by the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), sets standards for critical aspects of healthcare data management.
One of the most important frameworks of HIPAA is data protection. In a nutshell, HIPAA compliance is crucial because it aims to guarantee privacy and confidentiality, allows the patients to access their healthcare data, and reduces fraudulent activities, such as system and security breaches.
For an organization to be HIPAA compliant, they need to meet three requirements: administrative, physical, and technical. Ignorance of the HIPAA requirements can result in fines, regardless of whether these violations were a result of wilful neglect or inadvertence.
The administrative requirements for HIPAA compliance cover the practices, procedures, and policies that bring the Security Rule and Privacy Rule (both rules are discussed later in this article) together. These rules are pivotal elements of your HIPAA compliance checklist.
The administrative HIPAA requirements for compliance include:
The physical requirements for HIPAA compliance focus more on the physical access of the electronic protected health information or ePHI. The physical HIPAA requirements also indicate whether ePHI should be stored in a remote data center, on servers, or in the cloud and how mobile devices and workstations should be secured against any unauthorized access.
The physical requirements for HIPAA compliance include:
The technical requirements for HIPAA compliance are about the technology used in protecting ePHI and providing access to the data. One of the most important elements in the technical HIPAA requirements is to ensure that ePHI is encrypted to the National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST requirements once it travels outside the business’s internal servers.
The encryption of ePHI is vital to ensure that any breach renders the data unusable, unreadable, and undecipherable. Businesses can select whichever mechanism they want in order to achieve that goal.
Other technical requirements for HIPAA compliance include:
The Security Rule is one of the most important elements of HIPAA. The HIPAA Security Rule was enacted in 2004 to establish national standards in protecting ePHI whenever it’s created, used, or received electronically by Covered Entities (these are defined as healthcare providers who regularly use and transmit patients’ personal health information).
The Security Rule was made and implemented because more and more Covered Entities are replacing paper processes with digital ones.
Simply put, the HIPAA Privacy Rule governs how ePHI should be disclosed and used. Since its implementation in 2003, every healthcare organization and provider of health plans (insurance companies) must adhere to the guidelines set in the Privacy Rule.
Aside from protecting the privacy of patients’ personal health information, the Privacy Rule also sets conditions and limits concerning the disclosure and use of that information without patient authorization. The Privacy Rule provides patients or their nominated representatives the rights to their health information.
Understanding the Security Rule and Privacy Rule is necessary for HIPAA compliance. These rules have one major goal: to protect the privacy of every patient’s health information while allowing covered entities to embrace new technology as a means to improve the efficiency and quality of patient care.
Educate yourself on how the Security Rule and Privacy Rule work so you’ll know what to do and not to do when protecting patients’ health information.
Aside from the administrative, physical, and technical HIPAA requirements stated above, there are other requirements that are often overlooked. For example, the facilities access rules are stated under the physical requirements of the Security Rule. These requirements might be inadvertently discounted if your IT department doesn’t have any role in the physical security of its servers.
HIPAA was established in 1996 to keep patient and customer information private. Although the requirements set by the law can be overwhelming, being HIPAA compliant can help your business or healthcare organization take the necessary steps to guarantee the safety and security of private healthcare data.
Since being HIPAA compliant requires time and effort, you should work with an experienced and established HIPAA compliance partner, such as the Fenton Law Group. Working with these professionals will ensure that all items on your HIPAA checklist are properly addressed.