December 1, 2023

Healthcare organizations are always looking to build their departments in the best way possible. However, HIPAA compliance is not something that can be overlooked because of its importance. The HIPAA compliance rule was implemented to protect the health information of all patients, living or deceased. A healthcare organization needs to ensure that they have taken all the precautions necessary to be HIPAA compliant.

What Does HIPAA Stand For?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is a federal law that was created to protect the privacy of all health care recipients. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has oversight over the regulation that is enforced by the Office for Civil Rights.

The act created the standards by which all organizations must abide to ensure patient privacy. HIPAA requires healthcare providers to take special care in safeguarding and securing the health information of patients, both on the computer and mobile. Therefore, there are steps that all organizations need to take to be HIPAA compliant.

HIPAA Requirements

The requirements cover three categories: Administrative Safeguards, Physical Safeguards, and Technical Safeguards.

Administrative Safeguards

• Policies and procedures must be documented.

• The privacy program must be in place.

• HIPAA training must be provided to all employees.

Physical Safeguards

These requirements are specifically for healthcare professionals and their facilities.

• Workstation Design: All computers that have access to patient information should be encrypted, password-protected, and monitored 24/7 for unauthorized access.

• Facility Access Controls: Healthcare facilities should have proper access controls in place for all staff members, including limiting facility access to authorized individuals only.

• Secure Areas of the Facility: These are areas that contain PHI or other sensitive information. They must also be protected by an ID-badge system, which is used with electronic locking systems. Proximity cards are commonly used for this purpose.

• Workstation Security: All devices that have access to patient medical records should be secure, with the ability to lock them down if they are lost or stolen.

Technical Safeguards

These requirements are specifically for HIPAA-covered entities and their IT departments.

• Access Controls: Organizations need to have a way of controlling who can access PHI. There are three types of access control processes that organizations need to follow: Identification and Authentication, Authorization, and Accountability.

Identification and authentication mean making sure the individual asking for patient information is actually who they say they are. Authorization means verifying the correct data is being released and Accountability is about maintaining an audit trail of all access.

• Data Backup: All organizations must have a data backup plan in place. This includes, but is not limited to, making sure the information is backed up offsite and also making sure that encryption is used when transmitting this information.

• Electronic Transmission: All electronic transmissions of PHI must be encrypted. The HIPAA Security Rule does allow for unencrypted transmissions of PHI if it is transmitted over a secured and private connection.

• Data Breaches: If you become aware of any type of breach, whether accidental or on purpose, it must be reported to the Office for Civil Rights within one day.

• Risk Analysis: All HIPAA-covered entities are required to conduct a regular risk analysis to ensure that they know what threats could be harmful to their patient’s PHI.

HIPAA compliance is complex and organizations need to make sure that they take all the precautions necessary. There are many resources available, including webinars, podcasts, articles, and in-person seminars, to help you take the necessary steps to follow HIPAA compliance. Zara Raza is the Marketing Lead at Sunvera Software. Sunvera is a local software development firm based in Irvine, CA, providing intelligent software solutions for small and mid-sized businesses as well as entrepreneurs and startups.

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