The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was legislated by the US Congress in 1996 and consists of regulations that safeguard Personal Health Information (PHI).
Since PHI is counted as vulnerable data, it needs more comprehensive and precise protection. The HIPAA, with a series of standards for the storage of sensitive patient data, aims to make companies that deal with medical information secure and compliant.
What Is Personal Health Information And Who Needs Compliance?
PHI consists of names, connection information, social security number, disease records, dates, medical history, and biometric records. Hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and dentists are the main processors of PHI so they are obliged to provide HIPAA compliance.
On the other hand, third parties that covered entities work together with such as associates and subcontractors also have access to the PHI and they are liable under the HIPAA provisions.
What Is HIPAA Compliance?
In a HIPAA context, compliance means creating provisions according to the Act, making plans to protect health information, and implementing them. HIPAA Compliance needs a continuous sequence of actions such as setting up standards, staff education, monitoring, auditing, and making emergency plans.
So, it isn’t for once to become HIPAA compliant. To align your company with the HIPAA, you should constantly adhere to basic and further obligations that are regulated.
Technology has been used in healthcare for a long time and due to this, recorded data quantity is increasing day by day. Data processing acceleration with online devices brings further concerns to data security.
According to statistics, a data breach in the health industry in the US has seen its highest in 2021. This fact forces companies to take auxiliary measures in respect of privacy and security.
HIPAA Compliance Requirements
1) Staff Education
Staff education is the most crucial factor in the compliance process among other HIPAA compliance requirements. You can take all technological and legal measures to become compliant but without blocking human risk, it means nothing.
Human factors can be considered the weakest link of your compliance chain and can end up with catastrophic consequences. The best way to prevent your organization from falling victim to human error is to train your staff.
Aware and responsible employees can facilitate your compliance process. Setting up a department that is responsible for organizing periodical training and making audits can be a good start.
2) Make An Annual Risk Assessment And Be Prepared
You must detect your current threats and evaluate risk levels for HIPAA compliance. You can not determine accurate necessities for your company without knowing where you are.
A HIPAA Compliant organization must make an annual risk analysis in accordance with HIPAA standards and its own up-to-date policies.
HIPAA has a rule that is named the ‘‘Data Breach Notification Rule’’. This rule says what you should do in case of a cyberattack or any data breach. No system is completely secure and no matter how you take precautions, you are always at risk.
For best practices for sensitive documents, organizations must establish security standards and produce solutions for breach incidents. They also should have exact guidelines to mitigate harm in case of a breach.
3) Create Policies And Procedures
Covered entities, business associates, and subcontractors must develop systems to meet HIPAA compliance standards. Policies and procedures that you perform are required to be compatible with the HIPAA provisions.
Your business description or the technology that you benefit from could differ over time. It is crucial to update your employees with new guidelines of the company. Personnel training, documentation, and testing are the main pillars of your annual update liability under the HIPAA provisions.
4) Management Of Business Associates
As an organization that is responsible for HIPAA regulations, you must consider your business associates’ attitudes towards PHI.
It is impossible for you to relieve responsibility when a breach occurs in associates or subcontractors. Draw up and enter into an agreement with your partners to safeguard PHI that you share, transmit, and use.
Each agreement should be unique and compatible with the features of the intercourse with you and your business partner. Also, agreements must be annually revised and cooperate with the current necessities of your business.
5) Comply With The IT Infrastructure Standards
HIPAA also regulates storage standards regarding PHI both in technical and physical ways. Implementing technical protection consists mainly of giving limited authentication to the staff, monitoring suspicious activity, logging hardware and software access, and identity verification.
Technical safeguarding methods are especially crucial for ePHI (PHI that is stored in an electronic environment). Limited physical access to the building, office, store, and files enable you to meet physical safeguard standards. It gives you a chance to observe credentials and information on who has access to what data.
A HIPAA-compliant organization must document everything in connection with HIPAA to provide whole compliance. Taken measures, associates’ and subcontractors’ contact information, and occurred violations are the items of documentation. The main benefit of documentation is it increases organizations’ accountability.
If your documentation process is insufficient, you will fail the OCR HIPAA audit. Because, in case of a breach, organizations need to present these documents to the auditors.
Logging and recording every step you take concerning HIPAA compliance makes your activities visible and simplifies the audit process. The only way to prevent failure is to take the documentation process seriously and fulfill the requirements.
On A Final Note
HIPAA Compliance requirements are not limited to the above but you can consider these as the main pillars of the compliance process.
Becoming HIPAA compliant is neither complex nor hard to perform. You only should understand HIPAA spirit and evolve your organization in line with HIPAA provisions.