7 Things you should know about HIPAA rules
In today’s hi-tech world, the digital landscape is teeming with highly sensitive information, and a lot of that includes personal medical health records. To safeguard this important information, the US Department of Health & Human Services established the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA.
So what is HIPAA, and why should you be worried about it? HIPAA is designed to protect the medical privacy of patients. If your organization comes under a HIPAA-covered entity, then complying with these rules can save you from a world of trouble. Organizations are often fined multi-million dollars for non-compliance with these strict rules, so making yourself aware of them and starting off on the road to HIPAA compliance needs to be your first priority. Here are the seven most important things you must know about HIPAA rules.
Who should be Concerned about HIPAA?
All HIPAA-covered entities are required to comply with HIPAA regulations. HIPAA-covered entities include:
- Healthcare Providers such as dentists, doctors, psychologists, nursing homes, pharmacies, and all other healthcare practitioners which digitally maintain and exchange medical information.
- Healthcare Clearing Houses which act as intermediaries between healthcare providers and insurance payers and process healthcare information such as billing and claims etc.
- Health Plans which include government health programs, health insurance companies and company health plans.
- Business Associates of above mentioned covered entities including accounting firms, attorneys, or cloud service providers that transmit, maintain or provide storage for Protected Health Information (PHI).
HIPAA Compliance is a Must
As a healthcare provider or a small business that deals with personal health information, you may think you are not strictly subject to HIPAA compliance. In reality, complying to HIPAA is not a choice but a necessity for all HIPAA-covered entities. And under the latest HIPAA regulations, even business associates are equally liable to comply with HIPAA rules.
HIPAA Compliance is an Iterative Process
HIPAA compliance is not achieved overnight, it is an iterative risk assessment and management process, and your organization might take several iterations to reach full compliance.
Your Employees need HIPAA Training.
All employees under covered entities are required to partake in annual training programs to better secure electronic Protected Health Information.
Compliance is Not as Expensive as you Might Think.
Organizations might slack off on complying with HIPAA due to budget constraints that don’t allow for in-depth risk assessments, employee training, and better security measures. But the overall cost of all these measures is not as exorbitant as the millions of dollars your organization can lose for noncompliance.
It requires Documented Policies and Procedures.
HIPAA mandates for companies to create documented policies and procedures that employees can be trained on for organization-wide enforcement.
Create a Security Incident Response Plan (SIRP)
Companies that come under HIPAA need an incident response plan in case of a security breach. This may include the definition, affected parties, and the risk assessment after the incident.
By ignoring HIPAA, you are putting confidential patient information at risk, so financial penalties may not be the worst outcome of non-compliance. The reputation of your company is fragile, and security breaches compromising PHI can create distrust. In that light, HIPAA compliance is not only advantageous for patients but your organization as well.