Patient trust is a core component in the healthcare industry, where data breaches destroy relationships and threaten an organization's future. Meeting HIPAA compliance requirements strengthens patient trust by enhancing transparency, privacy, and security of healthcare information systems.
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.
A core component of HIPAA compliance is a Risk Assessment or Risk Analysis. 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.
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.
Failing to comply with HIPAA requirements can result in violations and considerable fines. A proactive approach to HIPAA compliance can minimize potential findings as well as reduce unanticipated costs.
Healthcare organizations that fall victim to data breaches generally suffer irreparable harm to their reputation. Understanding the unique security threats and vulnerabilities present in an organization encourages the application of the HIPAA Security Rule to protect PHI and maintain a stellar reputation.
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HIPAA covered entities include organizations that collect, process, store, or share protected health information. HIPAA rules define covered entities as health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and healthcare providers who electronically transmit any healthcare information connected to transactions that The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has adopted standards for. Entities required to comply with HIPAA include hospitals, academic medical centers, physicians, and other healthcare providers. Even if your business is not specifically a covered entity, you are subject to HIPAA rules if you enter into a business associate contract with a covered entity.
The Privacy Rule sets national standards to protect patients' medical records and other personal health information. The HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to healthcare clearinghouses, health plans, and other healthcare providers that conduct transactions electronically. The rule requires reliable measures to protect the privacy of PHI. The rule establishes authorized actions and the required disclosures that apply to such data. In addition, the HIPAA Privacy Rule gives individuals rights over their health information, including rights to access and review a copy of their records and request modifications.
The Security Standards for protecting ePHI are a national set of standards establishing the protective protocols for health information that covered entities hold or transfer. HHS states that "the Security Rule operationalizes the protections contained in the Privacy Rule by addressing the technical and non-technical safeguards" that covered entities must implement to secure ePHI. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) mandates the enforcement of both the Privacy and Security Rules with voluntary compliance activities and civil money penalties.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains that no "standard or implementation specification requires a covered entity to 'certify' compliance in HIPAA." However, covered entities are required to perform a periodic technical and non-technical evaluation that establishes the extent to which an entity's security policies and procedures meet the security requirements. Covered entities can perform the assessment internally or contract with an external organization that provides certification services. It is essential to point out that HHS does not endorse or recognize private organizations' 'certifications' regarding HIPAA Security Rule.
After establishing that the organization is a covered entity or a business associate to a covered entity, organizations can follow these steps to comply with HIPAA requirements:
Organizations can follow these steps to stay HIPAA compliant and avoid HIPAA violations or penalties: