Medical history information is some of the most sensitive data in a medical institution. Exposing such information can result in a reputational dent and costly fines and penalties. The Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPAA) is a U.S. regulatory framework that supervises how institutions uphold health data integrity.
The law was enacted in 1996 to protect information concerning a person’s health, healthcare, or payment in a health institution. As a health care practitioner, you must acquaint yourself with the provisions of data protection of HIPPA to avoid contravening the requirements of the Act.
The types of organizations the Act covers include – health professionals and institutions, insurance companies, service providers, and subcontractors. Health providers should embrace the following standards to enhance their compliance with HIPAA.
Create Standards for Security Management
HIPAA has specific standards for data security management that stipulate how data is electronically stored using appropriate physical, administrative, and technical safeguards. The regulation seeks to enforce data safety to avoid hacking and accidental exposure. The rule focuses on technical and non-technical aspects of data security management.
Each entity must assess its risk exposure and identify safeguarding solutions for data depending on the severity of the risk. Precautions must include administrative, physical, and technical measures. Administrative aspects cover the policies and procedures needed to protect data and focus on the actions and conduct of officers handling data.
Physical provisions of data security management focus on physical access restrictions. There should be protective measures against unauthorized access to sensitive patient data. Technical safeguards include technology used that ensures adequate data security.
Assign Who Will be Responsible for HIPAA Compliance
To enhance compliance with HIPAA, assign a person responsible for checking adherence to the standards. Having the policies, procedures, and systems is not enough to ensure 100 percent compliance. Sometimes people inadvertently skip procedures, and you need an enforcer checking constantly to ensure the implementation of the requirements.
The person you select to check adherence must have adequate knowledge and skills in quality control and HIPAA standards. If you have a capacity gap among your team, consider training. A training institution like the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) is a great option. The AAPC medical coding credentials train healthcare business professionals in various fields, including compliance.
To qualify for accreditation, your compliance officer goes through training and exams before getting a certificate. The certification process is rigorous, imparting the skills to keep your health institution compliant.
Create a HIPAA Compliance Management Strategy
Critical initiatives in an organization need a strategy for successful implementation. HIPAA compliance is one such initiative considering it is a statutory matter. The compliance strategy should be complete with goals, objectives, timelines, resources, and monitoring mechanisms. Every team member should be aware of the approach to enhance its success.
The starting point of creating a HIPAA compliance strategy is to assess the institution and identify the compliance gaps. Use the information to budget for necessary resources for 100 percent compliance. People, systems, and equipment are essential for resourcing the strategy. Invest in capacity building your team and acquiring appropriate systems & equipment to satisfy your clinic needs.
A monitoring and evaluation mechanism ensures everything is running as expected. Monitoring makes it easy to identify any deviations and implement remedial action. The long-term organization plan should include HIPAA-related topics as a standard operating procedure for the staff.
Plan for Emergencies
The best-laid plans can still experience hitches and need contingency planning. Complying with HIPAA regulations is no exception, necessitating planning for unforeseen events. Have specific procedures for unexpected data breach handling as stated in the Breach Notification Rule. The rules are guidelines for when and how to report security breaches.
In the event of compromised data, you will need to notify customers and other entities affected by a data breach. It is a legal requirement to inform customers in case of a security breach involving personal information. Stipulate which medium you will use to make the notifications and timelines to adhere to after the breach.
Emergency planning also involves developing damage control measures to avoid the devastating effect of the data leak. Include details like changing systems, arresting the attack, using supplementary processes, etc.
Investigating violations is pertinent for organizations, enabling them to learn from experiences. Have a process for a forensic audit of the technical, administrative, and physical infrastructure in the event of a data breach. The investigation helps to identify and seal loopholes to avoid future occurrences.
Common infractions in healthcare software development include unauthorized personal health information (PHI) use and disclosure of unauthorized PHI more than the minimum required. Know the reasons and how the breach happened and determine if it is an accidental or purposive attempt at compromising the health data.
Violations direct you to the weaknesses of the infrastructure to make amends. It is worth noting that hackers develop new ways of infiltrating systems every day, so today’s full-proof infrastructure still needs future improvement.
Implement Standards and Comply with HIPAA
HIPAA compliance may seem complex at the beginning. However, once you identify the relevant standards to implement in your institution, things begin to fall into place. The bottom line is to keep monitoring your operations and enforcing zero-tolerance for data breaches. With time, compliance becomes second nature to your team, and you have less likelihood of compromising personal data.