4 Important details about HIPAA compliance

Getting your practice up to code when it comes to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations can seem challenging upon first glance, but knowing where your IT efforts must be prioritized is the first step. In this article, we’ll zero in on four of the most critical items you must look into to become HIPAA-compliant.

1. Whether it be on-premises, on the cloud, or both, data storage must be HIPAA-compliant

Electronic protected health information (ePHI) and any sensitive documents like billing records, appointment information, and test results must be stored in HIPAA-compliant devices and servers. More specifically, your devices and services should have multiple layers of security, including endpoint protection software, encryption systems, and strict access controls.

Healthcare providers tend to prefer building their own data centers since they won’t require internet connectivity to access on-premises data storage. However, storage space may be limited, so the cloud is viable, especially for less sensitive ePHI. When choosing cloud-based storage for your EHRs, make sure that you and your service provider meet HIPAA requirements.

2. Data must be secured while providing telehealth and mHealth services

If your practice has invested in or is thinking about investing in telehealth or mobile health (mHealth), then you need to make sure that the tech you utilize is HIPAA-compliant. While most telehealth technologies are HIPAA-approved, one or two additional measures may be required for complete compliance. For example, you may need to utilize encryption in transit to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks during virtual consultations. An IT specialist should have no problem making sure your telehealth solution is up to code.

On the other hand, mHealth may be a little more problematic, as it is a new and constantly changing field. Your best bet is to consult with an expert to make sure that you’re following all the necessary regulations when providing mHealth services.

3. Healthcare business associates must also be HIPAA-compliant

Conforming to HIPAA regulations is not just limited to medical practices, healthcare clearinghouses, and health plan organizations. Any business that has access, electronic or otherwise, to PHI is also required by law to be HIPAA-compliant. This includes any accounting or law firms you work with that may already be accessing your files electronically to carry out work.

To avoid any potential trouble for your practice or its partners, it is best to ask them if they are HIPAA-compliant before partnering with them. If they aren’t, do not grant them data access privileges.

4. Your protected health information (PHI) notice must be available online

If your practice has a website, HIPAA rules dictate that your website must contain a copy of your updated PHI notice for patients to access. This notice informs patients of their rights with regard to their health information. If this information is not currently posted on your website, rectify this as soon as possible to avoid any problems.

Still not sure if you’re 100% HIPAA-compliant? Our team of experts can run the necessary risk analysis and identify areas of your technology that may not be in line with current regulations. Just give us a call today.

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Safeguard PHI with these tips

Because healthcare organizations handle protected health information (PHI), they are a prime target for hackers. Stolen PHI can be used to carry out a host of fraudulent activities, which is why businesses in healthcare must be extra vigilant when it comes to cybersecurity. To prevent data breaches and keep PHI secure, follow these best practices.

Educate your staff

A comprehensive data security training program is necessary to combat ever-evolving threats to the healthcare industry. Training should be done regularly and cover all the different areas of data security, including the different data breach methods employed by hackers. For instance, your employees should be educated on how to spot phishing attacks, which are the number one cause of data breaches, according to the 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report. Understanding how phishing works will help your employees recognize and avoid falling victim to such scams.

Enforce strict access policies

Implement access restriction policies to keep unauthorized users from getting their hands on PHI. This entails granting employees access to only the PHI they need to perform their tasks. For instance, accountants should not have access to data about patients’ health conditions. Similarly, physicians shouldn’t be able to see patients’ billing information.

Healthcare executives must also hold employees accountable for accessing PHI for no valid reason. Together with regular cybersecurity training, this will minimize the risk of data breaches resulting from insider threats.

Employ full-disk encryption

Full-disk encryption is an inexpensive and quick method to secure private information saved in computers and portable devices. It renders data indecipherable to users who don’t possess the matching decryption key. This means that even if one of your employees’ laptop or smartphone is lost or stolen, the thief won’t be able to access any encrypted PHI stored in it.

Build a resilient infrastructure

Malware is a blanket term for viruses, Trojans, and other harmful programs that cybercriminals use to damage systems and gain access to sensitive data. To ensure the security of PHI, your healthcare organization must build an IT infrastructure that is protected against malware of all kinds.

This involves setting up safeguards to keep malware and other threats at bay, such as advanced firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and email filtering software. You should also consider network segregation and segmentation to block hackers’ attempts to penetrate your networks and steal PHI data.

If malware does manage to infiltrate your network, stop it from spreading by deploying next-gen anti-malware software that can detect and quarantine any signs of a breach. If such systems fail, you’d also need a data backup and recovery plan so you can continue caring for your patients even during a major incident.

Implement physical security measures

Many healthcare organizations still rely on paper-based PHI and store these in file cabinets. Secure these valuable assets by installing physical security controls, such as surveillance cameras and card entry systems, in the areas of your facility where records are stored. You should also implement strict record log-out procedures, which will help ensure that only authorized personnel can access records that contain sensitive data and that these are returned promptly.

To learn more about how you can secure PHI and other digital assets, drop us a line today. Our team of professionals can provide you with the knowledge and assistance you need.

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