Protecting patient health information (PHI) is an important moral and legal responsibility shared by healthcare providers as well as third-party organizations that may have access to sensitive information. Implementing and maintaining the privacy and security policies necessary to ensure HIPAA compliance is a concern that no business can afford to ignore.
What is HIPAA Compliance?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law detailing the national standards used to safeguard PHI. HIPAA exists to ensure that patient data remains protected and that PHI cannot be divulged without the express permission of the patient. Healthcare providers and other organizations that have access to PHI may be able to use the following five checks to ensure they remain HIPAA compliant.
1 Implement Blanket Privacy Policies
Privacy policies governing the proper use of all digital platforms, software applications and data that may contain PHI are essential for ensuring continued HIPAA compliance. Businesses that fail to implement such policies may find themselves unable to keep PHI private and secure. From protecting against an external threat like a malware attack or data breach to keeping in-house employees from accessing medical records and PHI, the implementation of effective privacy practices and policies is of the utmost importance.
2 Employee Training and Education
Failing to train employees on how to maintain a secure network or digital database is another area where businesses often run into trouble. Simple user error can drastically increase the risk of a HIPPA violation by making it easier to gain unauthorized access to a network, database or a digital platform containing PHI. Ensuring that all staff and associates have been properly trained is one of the most important checks needed to ensure digital HIPAA compliance.
The sheer number of medical and administrative professionals and organizations that may be required to access a patient’s medical history in order to provide them with appropriate care is often surprisingly large. Failing to properly compartmentalize workflow means that businesses may be held responsible for a HIPPA violation due to the actions of an affiliated service or a professional who may be employed elsewhere.
4 Securing Digital Infrastructure
IT resources like firewalls, security software and network monitoring services also have an important role to play. Ensuring that the platforms and applications used to process, manage and store PHI are as secure as possible plays a key role in protecting PHI. Businesses may need to seek out third-party security solutions or services like hipaa compliant web hosting on Liquid Web in order to protect their data, network and digital infrastructure.
5 Audits and Assessments
Being HIPAA compliant today does not always mean that businesses will remain compliant in the days ahead. New digital technology, emerging threats and next-generation security resources mean that HIPAA compliance standards are constantly evolving. Conducting a periodic audit or a security assessment is often the only way to ensure that security protocols remain effective and that digital HIPAA compliance does not become an issue.
According to Joe Oesterling, Chief Technology Officer at Liquid Web, “the loss or compromise of protected health information could cause irreparable damage to a client’s reputation.” Periodic checks and access to essential security resources can help to ensure that businesses are better equipped to protect PHI and to comply with all HIPAA standards.