The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law meant to keep patient health information (protected health information, known as PHI) safe and secure. Failure to understand the requirements for HIPAA compliance can be very costly. When most healthcare professionals hear about HIPAA regulations, they think from a compliance standpoint. HIPAA compliance is indeed necessary, but only aiming for compliance may not fully reduce risks.
HIPAA compliance requirements are ever evolving to keep up with industry trends and new technologies. The best HIPAA practices go a long way farther than just implementing basic compliance steps. This article will outline some of the guidelines for best practices to ensure HIPAA standards are met in a medical setting.
With the rising number of healthcare providers earning negative spotlights due to non-compliance, healthcare professionals must follow certain guidelines for best HIPAA practices in an office setting. PHI is highly valued in the black market and well sought out by criminals. Stolen PHI is a vector for medical identity theft and with an increasing number of healthcare data breaches, the market is even riper. Although preventing medical identity theft is more attainable now, healthcare professionals should focus on how to keep PHI safe in the first place. Here are some of the best HIPAA practices guidelines:
Exercising the Privacy Rights in a medical setting
- Staff members or physicians must give patients the privacy they deserve in a medical setting whether they are in the patient room or the lobby.
- Make sure no one can see the screen or device when accessing ePHI.
- It is advisable to call patients by their first or last name only in the workplace.
- If possible, always look for a quiet, private space when conversing with patients individually so only those intended can hear the information.
- Make sure to knock every time you enter a patient’s room.
- Always be cautious about leaving patients’ files/documents unsecured or unattended.
- Make continuous efforts to instill a culture of privacy practice
Publish Notice of Privacy Practices
- A Notice of privacy practices should be printed and placed in a visible area in the office, so that everyone, including patients, can see the privacy laws and information that aims to keep PHI confidential.
- Make sure to publish the notice of privacy practices on your organization’s website.
- Make sure that the notice of privacy practices is readily available when patients ask for a copy.
Develop and implement written policies and procedures for best HIPAA practices
- Develop a guidebook of your written policies and procedures to ensure everyone in the office is following the best HIPAA practices. The guidebook should contain notices, forms, disclosures, and point by point procedures for HIPAA compliance requirements and notification of patient privacy.
- All staff members must have access to the policies and procedures. It is also recommended to get an attestation from all staff members saying they have read and understood the policies and procedures in place.
- Policies and procedures must be reviewed annually to account for changes with the current best HIPAA practices.
- Policies and procedures must be updated whenever there is a change in the practice, for instance, upgrading software or hardware of devices, implementing modern patient identification platforms, etc.
- All the above-mentioned processes can be easily done with our robust HIPAA compliance software – HIPAA Ready.
Train your staff members on best HIPAA practices
- Annual HIPAA training for all staff members, including doctors and nurses is mandatory.
- Besides annual training, conducting training regularly helps employees to be more aware of the provisions in the HIPAA law for best practices.
- Everyone must attest and acknowledge that they understand and will follow the policies and procedures covered in training.
- Documenting training sessions, dates, and names of the employees who underwent training is a critical part of ensuring compliance.
- Business associates are also required to undergo training.
- To make things easier, with our software HIPAAReady, authorized individuals can manage training sessions by notifying required individuals of the training. Within the software, users can also input effective training information.
Perform HIPAA Risk Assessments
- Conducting a HIPAA risk assessment once per year is mandatory and it helps to uncover vulnerabilities and gaps within the practice. However, performing risk assessments from time to time is recommended. A security risk assessment involves reviewing the technical, physical, and administrative safeguards in detail, which are outlined in the security rule.
- You can easily perform HIPAA risk assessments regularly with our software HIPAAReady.
- Any gaps or vulnerabilities uncovered during risk assessments will require remediation or follow-up, plans of actions that are to be developed within a reasonable timeframe to address the issues.
- Typically, about 3-4 months is a reasonable timeframe to remediate issues for most medical offices.
- It is crucial to know where the patient’s PHI is being stored. For instance, where the PHI is stored in an EHR (electronic health record), how the data backups are maintained, where the printed versions of PHI are stored, and by whom and how the PHI is being accessed.
- Devices or physical papers that contain PHI must be disposed of carefully, and in secured places to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
HIPAA Ready – The ultimate software for HIPAA compliance
HIPAA Ready is helping healthcare providers raise the bar for best HIPAA practices by employing measures gained from experience at leading healthcare systems and hospitals in the U.S. With leading innovative ideas, HIPAAReady enables health institutions to streamline their compliance efforts in an affordable manner. Our expert consultants are available 24/7 to answer your questions regarding HIPAA compliance. Start out with a free-trial or leave a comment to schedule a demo.