Many businesses in the healthcare industry look for HIPAA compliance certification, but the truth is there isn’t any legally recognized certification or accreditation process nor does the government issue any. That being said, there are third party organizations that provide HIPAA compliance services. They don’t provide certifications, these organizations help to validate and verify that your organization has understood and implemented an effective HIPAA compliance program.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) does not issue any certification simply because HIPAA compliance is an ongoing process. Many organizations claim that they are HIPAA certified. What this means is that those organizations may have passed an audit or completed training offered by third-party providers. However, being HIPAA certified does not guarantee that your organization will remain compliant in the future.
On an important note, to become HIPAA compliant, it is necessary to address the full HIPAA rules and regulations in its entirety. The requirements of HIPAA compliance are quite extensive and can be confusing to understand at times.
The Requirements of HIPAA Compliance
More important than certifications, organizations must address the following to meet HIPAA compliance requirements:
Conducting Annual Self-Audits
Organizations must conduct self-audits of their practices to assess any gaps in their administrative, physical, and technical implementations. These audits include Asset and Device Audit, Risk Analysis, Privacy Standards Audit, Physical Site Audit, Security Standards Audit, and HITECH Subtitle D Privacy Audit.
Corrective Action Plans
Corrective action or remediation plans must be devised to address the gaps discovered in self-audits and mitigate vulnerabilities.
Policies and Procedures
Policies and procedures are the foundation of your organization’s compliance program, which must be developed per HIPAA regulatory standards and documented to prove your effort towards compliance.
Training the members of your workforce helps to ensure that everyone understands their role and responsibilities towards compliance efforts.
Arguably, the most crucial aspect of HIPAA compliance is documentation. In the event of an official HIPAA audit, it helps to demonstrate the efforts your organization made to become HIPAA compliant. Also, documentation must be maintained for at least 6 years.
Business Associate Management
It is important that organizations execute a business associate agreement (BAA) with all the vendors that transmit, create, store, or maintain protected health information (PHI) on their behalf. It helps to ensure that the vendors understand their responsibilities in properly handling PHI.
This step requires organizations to notify HHS and the affected individuals in the event of a breach. If the breach affects more than 500 individuals, it should be reported to the media as well. Organizations should also have procedures to back track the incident.
Training, not certifications
The HHS mandates that organizations train their employees annually on HIPAA rules and regulations. It helps to ensure that employees are handling PHI correctly. Recurring training also helps employees to brush up on important topics or policies they might have forgotten. To be HIPAA compliant, it is essential to document that the employees have understood and completed their training.
Ensure ongoing compliance with HIPAA Ready
Since certifications aren’t very reliable and HIPAA compliance is an ongoing process, you can make use of our robust compliance management application, HIPAA Ready. HIPAA Ready integrates all the compliance management modules, mentioned above, and helps organizations to streamline their compliance efforts from a single centralized platform.
Since HIPAA and its acts are extremely broad yet vague, HIPAA Ready helps organizations to keep track of their compliance activities to ensure they continue to remain compliant. If you are interested in learning more about HIPAA Ready, please contact CloudApper or leave a comment below.