Regulated by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) includes regulations that all medical facilities must follow to protect private patient information. To better understand how your healthcare practice can abide by these guidelines, we put together a brief HIPAA compliance checklist for medical providers. Plus, should you successfully comply with HIPAA’s four amendments, you will avoid serious consequences, such as criminal charges, fines, and lawsuits.
Following HIPAA’s Privacy Rule
Of course, you must uphold consistent verbal and written communication with your employees to determine when they can use patient data. They should know best practices as well as the repercussions that come with unintentional leaks. Procedures should include asking for the minimum information necessary to achieve the purpose of the patient’s disclosure. Further, your patients should receive a notice of privacy practices (NPP), which allows them to better familiarize themselves with the circumstances in which others will access their information. Whether your practice keeps paper records, electronic health records (EHRs), or both, your patients have rights to their own privacy. Keep in mind, however, that the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act encourages practices to prioritize digital records.
Additionally, designate an individual in your facility who will act as a “privacy official.” This team member ensures HIPAA compliance by maintaining current privacy policies and updating your practice when new procedures arise.
Lastly, remember that every medical facility requires a National Provider Identifier (NPI), which is a unique ten-digit number that provides clarity when coding and transmitting healthcare data. If two doctors share the same last name and practice in the same city, their NPIs will differentiate these two medical professionals from one other.
Complying With HIPAA’s Enforcement Rule
HIPAA’s Enforcement Rule defines how organizations must handle penalties for violations. Typically, when individuals or companies report HIPAA violations, they contact the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and ask for them to investigate the actions.
Obeying HIPAA’s Security Rule
Your healthcare facility should always determine security risks and remediate issues as soon as they happen. Most importantly, however, you must train staff to properly store and share patients’ electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI). After all, this information includes names, addresses, medical records, photographs, and other personal data. For instance, implement technical safeguards such as authentication and encryption, both of which keep information secure across networks. Additionally, to prevent online threats, utilize cloud software. Remember to provide everybody with access to their own accounts, too. Prioritize a single login—which should include a strong username and password—for each team member, as well as automatic logoff capabilities.
Abiding by HIPAA’s Breach Rule
While you likely don’t want to encounter breaches, it’s best to take preventative action against them. First, create business associate agreements that dictate that business associates and covered associates must immediately notify the appropriate personnel when data has been compromised. If healthcare organizations must handle a breach, they need to inform the affected patients, as well as the government and media, if necessary. In fact, the Omnibus Rule, which modified the four rules we listed above, confirms that business associates (BAs) are liable for complying with HIPAA. Also, make sure you have a security contingency plan ready. This plan details how to back up data and otherwise take an alternate course of action if patient information is compromised.
The information we provided above is simply a brief overview of HIPAA’s various regulations. However, when it comes to learning more about patients’ sensitive data, Gamma Compliance Solutions can help, ensuring your practice can maintain maximum confidentiality and security. We provide HIPAA training materials for employees of healthcare organizations, and for your convenience, our website offers varying packages for different needs. No doubt, keeping digital medical records is risky. However, if your facility is HIPAA compliant, the recordkeeping process will be easier and more secure.