HIPAA has been a much-discussed topic within the US healthcare system, and for good reason. Anyone dealing with sensitive patient data needs to ensure HIPAA compliance in order to protect patient data – more on that later. Just like ensuring compliance has its perks, noncompliance can lead to undesirable consequences, which is why it is crucial to choose one of the better HIPAA compliance solutions.
For instance, HIPAA violations can cost you up to $50,000 per occurrence as well as a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year. Moreover, HIPAA is a multilayered and complex law, which is why organizations choose HIPAA compliance solutions to help them achieve compliance. Let’s analyze what HIPAA is, why HIPAA compliance is necessary, who needs to ensure compliance, why organizations have a hard time ensuring it, and how a HIPAA compliance application like HIPAAReady can help.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA for short, was enacted back in 1996 so that employees were not left without insurance coverage while they were between jobs. However, HIPAA is primarily used to protect sensitive patient data known as protected health information (PHI) from inappropriate disclosures by either the organization housing the PHI or any other third-party.
Why HIPAA compliance is necessary
PHI needs to be safeguarded for various reasons. To understand that, first, let’s see what qualifies as PHI. The common types of PHI are as follows:
Thus, as can be understood from the list above, these can be easily used to identify the patient. If an inappropriate disclosure of PHI occurs, not only will the patient’s identity be revealed to those who have access to it, but the information can be used for nefarious purposes as well.
For instance, Social Security numbers are one of the most valuable pieces of information an American citizen can have, as well as medical and insurance information of the patients – all of which are part of PHI. To put it into perspective, PHI can be sold in the black market for up to $363. This shows how lucrative it is for hackers to breach organizations housing PHI. Thus, ensuring HIPAA compliance means that organizations are implementing proper safeguards required by HIPAA to keep the PHI secure and out of the wrong hands while it is being accessed, maintained, or transmitted. For instance, one of the requirements of HIPAA is that PHI should be encrypted, so that even in the case of a data breach, it will be useless for the hacker.
HIPAA compliance also ensures that you are saving a considerable amount of money by not facing hefty fines. Healthcare providers already have a lot of problems on their plates, like patient identification errors, for instance. Fortunately, solutions like touchless biometric patient identification platforms are there to ensure positive patient identification. HIPAA compliance solutions are also available to simplify compliance management.
Who needs to follow HIPAA rules?
Usually, many are confused as to which organizations need to comply with HIPAA. There are two types of organizations that need to comply with the rules and regulations set forth by HIPAA – covered entities and business associates.
Covered entities refer to the organizations that usually create, maintain, and transmit PHI themselves. For instance, healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses are generally categorized as covered entities.
On the other hand, business associates serve covered entities and their responsibilities specifically are tied to the PHI of the covered entities. Typical examples include billing firms, cloud storage providers, lawyers, accountants, IT contractors, and so on. However, business associates need to execute Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) before gaining access to PHI. BAAs usually outline what, when, and how PHI will be used, as well as what actions will be taken after the PHI is longer required by the business associates.
Why is HIPAA compliance tough?
While all this might sound easy, it is quite common for organizations to violate HIPAA inadvertently. This is mostly because there are several multilayered rules and regulations they have to follow. The HIPAA Privacy Rule, Breach Notification Rule, Omnibus Rule, and Security Rule are quite elaborate and complex in themselves and have minimum standards that need to be maintained. Even after ensuring those, organizations still face non-compliance issues. This happens because some organizations believe HIPAA compliance is a one-time procedure. On the contrary, HIPAA compliance needs to be ensured at all times – it is a continuous process.
Just because an organization is compliant today does not necessarily mean that it will be compliant tomorrow as well. This is one of the main reasons why there are no official HIPAA certifications available – all of them are third-party certifications. Thus, if a rule gets modified and healthcare providers are not clear about it, one small blunder can result in hefty fines, lawsuits, data breaches, unwanted attention, and loss of goodwill.
Moreover, organizations tend to give training regarding a topic only once, thinking that it is enough. However, that is another common blunder. There have been many cases where, after a data breach, retraining had been provided. Even after that, the same organization faced another breach due to the same reason. Thus, retraining is crucial regarding basic but sensitive topics.
Time and again, it has been proven that topics like PHI access, common HIPAA violations, and consequences of non-compliance need to be reiterated via retraining. Another thing to keep in mind is your organization rests in the hands of your employees. You might know all you need to about HIPAA, but your employees are the ones who deal with PHI. It is important to convey all the information to your employees so that you are on the same page – a crucial feature HIPAA compliance solutions should have.
Why are HIPAA compliance solutions important?
HIPAA compliance is an arduous task as well as a continuous process. With so many rules and regulations to follow, it becomes difficult for organizations to keep track of HIPAA compliance management efforts.
There are several HIPAA compliance solutions available on the market, but you need to choose the one that simplifies compliance management and helps you ensure compliance continuously. HIPAAReady is a robust HIPAA compliance software that is easy to use, affordable, and yet, powerful. You can conduct internal audits to address vulnerabilities, ensure effective training management and scheduling, keep all HIPAA-related information in a centralized location, and keep your employees on the same page, all with a single application. It removes administrative burdens and makes compliance easier for you. Try HIPAAReady now and see how it can ease your HIPAA complexities.