Even though HIPAA compliance is a requirement for a covered entity or associated business, there are benefits. As more organizations and institutions handling PHI move to computerized operations by developing and implementing solutions like electronic health records, computerized physician order entry systems, radiology, laboratory, and pharmacy systems, the benefits of HIPAA compliance are many. Technology solutions will offer increased efficiency, productivity, scalability, and mobility, but they also introduce security and privacy risks. Applying HIPAA best practices to these emerging risks will set organizations up for success.
Patient trust is a core component in the healthcare industry, where data breaches destroy relationships and threaten an organization's future. Healthcare organizations that fall victim to data breaches generally suffer irreparable harm to their reputation. A recent study reveals that potential users of health information technology are much more concerned with IT-related security and privacy. Meeting HIPAA compliance requirements strengthen patient trust by enhancing transparency, privacy, and security of healthcare information systems.
A core and mandatory component of HIPAA compliance is a Risk Assessment or Risk Analysis. Understanding the unique security threats and vulnerabilities present in an organization encourages the application of the HIPAA Security Rule to protect PHI. For many small and medium sized organizations, the risk assessment exercise is an eye-opener, one that can lead to the implementation of necessary security measures and operational practices. In addition, organizations find that by applying a risk based approach to vendor selection, they can ensure that all parties subject to HIPAA are in compliance.
Data Handling Best Practices
Implementing and maintaining HIPAA security and privacy practices will not only pave the way for becoming HIPAA compliant, but will also ensure that your organization is handling sensitive data appropriately. An understanding of how data moves throughout the system will dictate the appropriate safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic PHI. Rather than guessing what controls or safeguards need to be in place, the HIPAA protocols and protections offer some guidance.
Culture of security and privacy
Becoming HIPAA compliant is not just a checklist activity. Rather, the entire organization is called upon to embrace security and privacy best practices. This is accomplished through ongoing training, periodic HIPAA self-audits, clear policies and procedures, and collaboration.
Avoid fines, corrective actions and non-compliance
Failing to comply with HIPAA requirements can result in violations and considerable fines. In the case of a data breach that affects PHI, organizations can face criminal charges and civil action lawsuits. Regular internal compliance reviews can help protect an organization from complaints or audit findings from a State Attorney General. A proactive approach to HIPAA compliance can minimize potential findings as well as reduce unanticipated costs that may come from fixing the problem ad hoc and repairing a damaged reputation after a cyber incident.