How to Become HIPAA Compliant: The Steps Explained

Between 2010 and 2017, there were 2,163 HIPAA breaches

Every healthcare professional should learn the importance of HIPAA compliance. HIPAA violations result in huge ethical issues, fines, and possible court cases. It also destroys the credibility of a business.

Protecting the client is extremely important. Knowing exactly how to become HIPAA compliant can get to be confusing. There are a lot of things to remember.

We’re are here to help. Make sure to keep reading the guide below to learn about HIPAA compliance. 

What Is HIPAA?

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Extra protection is needed in the current digital age. This is especially true with the increased transfer of files.

HIPAA keeps patient information confidential. This protects the integrity of the client and reduces the chance of fraud. It also ensures proper handling of patient files.

Because records are now digital, access is easier. This increases efficiency in the healthcare system. Unfortunately, it also increases the possibility of fraud or oversharing of private information. 

Doctors use HIPAA regulations to discuss a patient with other professionals. The protection of patients in every conversation is a priority.

The Enforcement of HIPAA

Understanding who enforces HIPAA compliance and how it’s enforced is crucial for all medical and mental health professionals. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services handles enforcing HIPAA. If there’s a suspected breach of guidelines, this department is notified. 

A client or observer can submit a complaint to the institution possibly at fault. The health institution will look over the complaint and decide if they’ll report it. This review occurs under the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule. 

Once notified, the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights reviews the complaint. Complaints are either resolved before investigation or passed to the Department of Justice.

The DOJ may accept the case with the involvement of criminal activity, or they can hand the case back to the OCR. 

Different HIPAA Rules

Covered entities, including healthcare offices and pharmacies, follow multiple HIPAA rules. These rules are also followed by employees contracted by these covered entities. 

The HIPAA Privacy Rule creates guidelines for the disclosure of a patient’s private information. The HIPAA Security Rule establishes standards regarding the storage of private information. This rule is important when information is being shared by two entities.

The Omnibus Rule requires all covered entities and business associates to follow all HIPAA regulations. This rule creates expectations for BAAs. 

The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule highlights what to do in the case of a breach. Carefully following this process is crucial.

The Importance of Risk Management 

Proper risk management is a vital part of HIPAA enforcement. It’s important to identify potential problem areas and put prevention procedures in place. 

Management and employees should constantly be on the lookout for any holes in client protection. Regularly check information systems and databases to guarantee things are running smoothly. 

If there are holes in the system, alert management immediately. Responding quickly to privacy issues is important. 

All employees should be holding each other accountable. Do you suspect someone is not following HIPAA guidelines? Reach out to them directly or speak with management.

Hold frequent training on HIPAA compliance within the workplace. This refreshes the employees’ minds and stresses the importance of patient privacy. 

Work with the hiring team to correctly train new employees. New employees may make mistakes without meaning to. This is why a network of accountability is important.

Provide Documentation 

Provide documentation outlining HIPAA regulations to all employees. It’s also a great idea to leave copies of these documents in the office for future use. 

Include instructions on how to recover patient usernames and passwords. Show how to properly allow patients to amend their records. This documentation needs to also outline emergency steps to take in case of a breach.

Employees benefit from network diagrams outlining how certain communications are properly handled. Provide specific examples using made-up patients to demonstrate correct communication. 

Patients receive documentation in the form of a Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP). This form explains how protected information is handled and what information the patients have a right to access.

To better prevent HIPAA compliance issues, businesses should invest in a compliance agency. 

Perform Frequent Self-Audits

Perform frequent self-audits in covered entities following HIPAA regulations. 

Audits should include the review of Business Associate Agreements. Both the institution and vendors with access to private patient information sign them. Keep these agreements updated.

After an audit, identify problem areas. You should also assess your need of switching to updated software. Big companies are making the switch over to cloud-based systems.

Appoint Officers

All institutions handling private patient information should appoint privacy and security officers. It’s required by HIPAA law to have these officers. 

You may appoint someone already working at the institution. You can also hire someone new to fulfill the role. This depends on the available budget and space.

These officers will be reviewing everyone’s efforts to follow HIPAA rules. They’ll work to install risk management strategies. They’re also available for any potential complaints about HIPAA violations.

Implement Physical Safeguards

There are many physical safeguards to implement for patient security. These cover the physical process of handling important data. 

Constantly check and watch all software and hardware used on open networks. Work with your IT team if there are complications with it. 

If a device contains access to private information, restrict access to only those with proper credentials. Use password protection. 

Guarantee no one is using highly-visible workspaces to view private patient records. Review private records in isolated areas. 

Protect Patients, Learn How to Become HIPAA Compliant

It’s important to learn how to become HIPAA compliant working with private information. There are plenty of rules and regulations to follow. Take time to frequently refresh your memory. 

Start by learning all the rules mentioned above. Provide adequate documentation and frequent self-audits to remain HIPAA compliant. Privacy and security officers can answer any questions.

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