In today’s era where sensitive information, such as medical records and personal health data, is maintained online, compliance with the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) has become very important.
Primarily, HIPAA compliance refers to the process of adhering to the administrative, physical, and technical safeguards under the said federal regulation to protect the integrity of sensitive personal information or the so-called protected health information (PHI).
As such, businesses and entities which are required to be HIPAA compliant should familiarize the fundamentals of this federal law. That way, they’d be able to handle essential personal information safely and securely. Thus, if your business needs to comply with the HIPAA rules and regulations, below are the four important things to know from the get-go:
- Determining Who Are The Covered Entities
To properly deal with the different HIPAA compliance procedures, the first thing you need to know is who are the entities that are covered by this regulation. Generally, the covered entities are those which are required by the regulation to protect the security and privacy of certain health information. These can include:
- Health care providers: They’re the entities that transmit electronic information regarding any health-related transactions. They include clinics, doctors, chiropractors, pharmacies, dentists, psychologists, nursing homes, and others.
- Healthplans: They’re the ones who pay for certain healthcare services. They include health insurance companies, company health plans, and even government programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and many others.
- Health care clearinghouses: They’re the ones that process health information including repricing companies, billing services, and the like.
As you can see, HIPAA compliance applies to the above-mentioned covered entities. But, if your organization doesn’t belong to any of them, then it may be considered a business associate that performs functions, involving the use and disclosure of protected health information.
Hence, to determine whether the HIPAA rules apply to your own organization, check if the so-called protected health information is used, stored, and transmitted within your company. If your organization is, indeed, covered by HIPAA compliance, you can check out some guidelines from experts and reliable resource websites to get more information.
- Knowing The Scope Of Protected Health Information Covered By HIPAA
Apart from the covered entities and business associates that are required to be HIPAA, the next thing you need to get familiar with is the scope of protected health information covered by the said federal regulation. Typically, PHI, which stands for protected health information, include any information about the following:
- Patient’s past, present, and future mental or physical condition;
- Healthcare provided to the patient;
- Past, present, and future payment to the patient for healthcare; and
- Personal details of the patient.
There are several pieces of information that are protected under HIPAA. However, just like other electronic data, the protected health information isn’t immune to cybersecurity threats and data breaches. But if your organization is found to be negligent in handling data security, HIPAA fines are imposed to correct the problem.
On the other hand, if you want to be HIPAA compliant, it’s best to implement security measures or work with a reliable information security company that can help you safeguard certain data within your organization. By doing this, you can possibly minimize the risks of a possible data security breach.
- Training Employees Who Have Access To Sensitive Information
Whether you’re a covered entity or a business associate, you need to train all your employees who have access to sensitive health information in order to become HIPAA compliant. They should receive the annual HIPAA training to ensure they understand the policies and procedures pertaining to this federal regulation.
Aside from the security procedures, the employees should also be trained on the current law standards. Also, make sure all the training sessions are properly documented to show that your organization is compliant at all times in case authorities inspect your business.
- Documenting Your Risk Assessment Procedures
In addition to training, it’s also essential for your organization to document your risk assessment procedures to determine all potential risks of a data breach.
Generally, documentation is one of the things that auditors and regulators would check if your organization satisfies all the requirements for HIPAA compliance. It’s not enough to say that you comply with the rules and regulations. You need to prove it with the proper documentation of your risk assessment procedures.
For instance, if you want to show you’re compliant, you might consider documenting the following:
- Steps you plan to take to ensure protected health information is safeguarded;
- People who have access to certain sensitive information and why;
- Type of software security or technology being used; and
- What happens when there’s a breach in security.
Indeed, understanding the fundamentals of HIPAA compliance can be complicated at some point. But, by keeping the abovementioned factors in mind, your organization would be able to navigate this federal regulation more efficiently. Remember, dealing with this subject matter doesn’t need to be difficult as long as you perform everything in your power to protect the health information you’re entrusted to.