The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that was established in 1996 to help workers in the United States transfer coverage, ensure privacy, and extend those benefits to their family members. It allowed insurance to transfer for workers who have been laid off or in case they switch.
HIPAA is now known for reducing abuse and fraud within the healthcare system, the implementation of industry standards for billing and information, and confidential handling of sensitive information.
The law requires all healthcare organizations and providers, including their business associates to develop and implement appropriate policies and procedures to ensure the security and confidentiality of PHI (Protected Health Information). All types of PHI, including verbal, written, and electronic should be protected under HIPAA.
Given that many organizations are still failing to meet HIPAA compliance requirements, this article explains the importance and benefits of HIPAA. Here are some of the benefits of HIPAA:
Improves decision-making and privacy of health information
HIPAA focuses on protecting the privacy of personal information and sharing on different levels. The law prevents discussing personal cases at doctor’s offices, pharmacies, or other care centers. Patients also have the right to correct their information and make decisions about when and with whom their personal information can be shared. Ultimately, it helps to limit the disclosure of personal information when it is unnecessary, which leads to fewer cases of medical identity theft or breach of information.
Patients can now contribute to their medical file
Before this legislation was passed, patients were not allowed to see their medical files at all. HIPAA made it possible for patients to make corrections and make copies of their medical information upon request. It helped everyone, particularly those with pre-existing conditions, and people now can change their jobs without worrying about the status of their health insurance.
Encouraged strong passwords for protecting PHI
Just like everyone else, medical professionals also tend to choose common passwords or passwords that can be easily remembered. Surprisingly, some of the most commonly used passwords used by medical professionals matched the top 25% passwords used every year. Around 10% of the people used passwords that can be easily hacked, while 3% use the worst ones – “password” or “12356”.
Additionally, other weak passwords that frequently made the list, such as “qwerty”, “letmein”, and “welcome”.
HIPAA prevents the use of these commonly used passwords. The law requires that medical professionals as well as staff members use passwords that cannot be easily hacked. This prevents sensitive information from being easily breached by cybercriminals or insider malicious actors.
Reduced medical errors in busy systems
Due to HIPAA, medical professionals and patients have to work together when building medical files. Since there are multiple parties involved in building each file, it reduced discrepancy and the possibility of making errors in medical records. This improves the overall safety and quality of patient care, as medical practitioners and nurses have confidence in the quality of data. Also, upgrades to electronic health records (EHRs) made it easier for research to be conducted immediately following patient interviews. Leveraging all these factors together has improved operational efficiency, which was not present before HIPAA was enacted.
Regular audits are more beneficial than you think
HIPAA requires covered entities and their business associates to perform regular audits. Regular audits help to discover gaps and vulnerabilities within the organization. Without these audits, many healthcare organizations could not even tell how and why their systems were hacked in the event of a breach. Essentially, HIPAA requires organizations to develop appropriate policies and procedures to assess administrative, technical, and physical gaps with regards to HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule. Not only does it benefit an organization, but patients as well, as it offers certainty in the security of sensitive health information.
Improved physical security in workplaces
One of the noteworthy benefits of HIPAA is that it requires organizations to also focus on the security of their physical infrastructure, such as where and how servers, computers, and PHI should be stored. Other physical security measures include surveillance cameras, alarm systems, etc. Before this legislation was passed, many of these items were kept in common or unprotected areas, which was one of the main reasons for unauthorized access to information. Now, these items are required to be kept behind closed doors or where PHI cannot be accessed by unknown individuals. Only individuals with a certain level of authorization can access this information. Additionally, power supplies, including backups may be necessary for some organizations to meet the required standard of the legislation.
Another benefit of HIPAA is that organizations are required to keep their data systems, networks, and software patched and updated at all times. Many medical providers previously failed to keep their data systems updated, if there was one in place at all. Modern and updated systems have the capability to automatically reduce manual errors. Additionally, organizations must be more aware of malicious software that can potentially compromise patients’ health information. Many healthcare records have been breached due to a lack of adequate cybersecurity measures in place. If HIPAA did not exist, many healthcare organizations would most likely take cybersecurity measures more lightly.
Realize the benefits of HIPAA with HIPAA Ready
Now that if you have a better understanding of the benefits of HIPAA, it is time to undertake procedures to ensure that your company is HIPAA compliant. Benefits aside, there are also many cons to HIPAA, such as increased administrative burden and the fact that it forces medical providers to pay heavy fines if a HIPAA violation occurs. HIPAA Ready’s team is here to make sure you don’t fall on the bad side of HIPAA. You can make use of our HIPAA compliance software to maintain compliance at all times.
This robust cloud-based HIPAA compliance software combines all compliance management modules and lets users streamline their compliance efforts from a single centralized platform. What are you waiting for? Just leave a comment to schedule a demo!