HIPAA Security and Awareness Training – An essential component of your compliance program

Ryan Stephens
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Employee training is one of the most important, and overlooked aspects of a compliance program when it comes to implementing a robust security system. Security and awareness training is also an essential part of HIPAA compliance.

But various research tells otherwise. According to Mediapro’s State of Privacy and Security Awareness Report, a staggering 78% of healthcare professionals lacked adequate preparedness with common privacy and security threat scenarios. Patient data records are highly sought after by cybercriminals because they can exploit them in various ways. Robust data security and patient privacy training would benefit healthcare organizations and mitigate cybersecurity risks as they work to keep on top of evolving data breaches.

Another study conducted by NeuMD revealed that many healthcare organizations are also failing to keep up with annual HIPAA training. It states around 58% of healthcare organizations are currently providing annual HIPAA training to their staff members, compared to 2014 when 62% of organizations did so.

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An effective compliance program is only as strong as its weakest link

Like any experienced thief, cybercriminals or hackers will evaluate your security measures and attack the weakest point in your system. Primarily hackers can be divided into two broad categories: those with an inadequate set of skills that try to exploit in bulk, hoping to come across easy prey, and those with a substantial set of skills who are more objective and goal-oriented about their approach. Most healthcare breaches today are done by the second type of hackers because healthcare data has become increasingly valuable on the black market. This is because healthcare records contain sensitive information such as financial record numbers, SSN, DOB, and health plan numbers, which can be exploited in a myriad of ways, including medical identity theft.

Even if your IT security team is aware of the latest compliance rules, without specific security and awareness training that not only addresses HIPAA rules, but also issues at hand, and various ways security may be breached, many of your employees will not be able to protect themselves against competent hackers.

In fact, in 2019, approximately 41.2 million healthcare records were reported to be stolen, compromised, or impermissibly disclosed. This figure alone tells us how healthcare organizations are falling behind in HIPAA security and awareness training. 

HIPAA compliance means training

Several experts have argued about the effectiveness of any security and awareness training plan. However, the penalty tiers built into HIPAA is a solid indicator that ignorance, or inadequate HIPAA training, is not an excuse for the loss of protected health information. 

Any effective compliance program should encompass two levels of HIPAA training. The first one is general training, aimed at all the employees and business associates that have access to the system. General training usually includes how to identify threats, and phishing attempts, and types of social engineering, what to do when employees think they are subjected to an attack, and the consequences of data breaches.

The second level of training should be more group-oriented, which focuses on particular areas of responsibility. Organizations must implement this higher level of training in their practice. For example, the types of passwords that should be used, and who can access or change data. 

Staying up to date is the key to HIPAA compliance

Like any other requirements for HIPAA compliance, security and awareness training is mandatory for not only your employees but any subsequent third-party entity who has access or maintains protected health information.

Initial security training for new onboarding employees is essential, but the frequency is a major factor in ensuring that employees are aware of the latest guidelines and a strong culture of security compliance. Many security experts have recommended quarterly training, as well as follow up training in case any security incident occurs.

Rely on HIPAA Ready if needed

Talking about security and awareness training is easy, but implementing a good training program is very challenging. When there’s a lot to focus on besides HIPAA compliance, organizing these training sessions becomes extremely difficult. 

This is why we recommend organizations to make use of HIPAA Ready to not only streamline these training sessions but also their entire compliance program. HIPAA Ready is a modern and robust cloud-based compliance management application that is supported on both web and mobile platforms. This application allows healthcare employers to streamline their compliance efforts with a top-down approach. From a single-centralized platform, users can conduct training sessions, perform risk assessments and audits, manage incidents, and develop robust policies and procedures. 

To learn more about how to streamline security and awareness training with HIPAA Ready, please leave a comment below or contact CloudApper.

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