If you work in the healthcare industry, you’re aware of HIPAA and its privacy laws, but do you truly grasp its importance? Do you know about all the ways your organization may struggle with HIPAA compliance? We live in a digital age with constant threats of hacking and cyber attacks, so maintaining HIPAA compliance is more difficult than ever.
At HCLM, we take HIPAA in the healthcare industry very seriously. In addition to maintaining your HIPAA compliance with our services, we want to offer you some tips to make sure you are as prepared as possible to manage HIPAA compliance effectively in this digital age. Here’s some information to help you tackle HIPAA in the healthcare industry in the digital age.
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) concerns safeguarding medical information and patient privacy, among other things. In this highly digital age, maintaining patient privacy is more difficult than ever – and absolutely crucial for the success of your business. Data breaches, cyber attacks, and ransomware lurk around every virtual corner, just waiting to leak patient information and devastate your company.
Did You Know…
While HIPAA in the healthcare industry commonly refers to patient privacy, that’s not all the law covers. The law actually has five sections:
- Title I: HIPAA Health Insurance Reform protects health insurance coverage for people who lose their jobs and forbids insurance companies from denying people coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
- Title II: HIPAA Administrative Simplification deals with national standards for processing electronic healthcare transactions. This is the section of the law responsible for privacy regulations.
- Title III: HIPAA Tax-Related Health Provisions is self-explanatory.
- Title IV: Application and Enforcement of Group Health Plan Requirements further defines health insurance reform.
- Title V: Revenue Offsets deals with company-owned insurance and how to handle people who lose US citizenship.
Why is HIPAA Important?
Healthcare cybersecurity is critical for a number of reasons. HIPAA breaches can lead to fines, criminal penalties, and the loss of trust from your patients since they are required to be notified of any breaches of their healthcare-related privacy. Any of these consequences could harm your organization, but if you get hit with all three, your entire company may collapse under the devastating weight of the breach.
What Information Does HIPAA Cover?
Protected health information (PHI) covered under HIPAA’s privacy laws includes:
- A patient’s physical or mental health condition
- Care provided to a patient
- A patient’s name, address, birth date, and Social Security number
- Any information that could be used to identify a patient
HIPAA Compliance Training Programs
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces HIPAA compliance and offers six educational programs on complying with privacy and security rules. In addition, there are many training groups and consultancies that offer programs to help your organization maintain HIPAA compliance. These training programs can go a long way toward educating your employees to help reduce the risk of HIPAA privacy breaches.
Where Are the Places My Organization May Struggle With HIPAA Compliance?
You need to be aware of the potential weak spots in your company that may struggle with HIPAA compliance. Common weak spots in HIPAA compliance include:
- If they aren’t aware of HIPAA laws, they could unintentionally mishandle patient information. Education is key, and that’s why training programs are such an important part of maintaining HIPAA compliance. All new employees should be instructed about HIPAA compliance before handling any patient information.
- IT management. It isn’t enough to try to be proactive. You also need to have a disaster recovery plan in place in case the worst happens. If you’re struck by a cyber attack, can you quickly restore patient files? How will you handle your finances and reputation after a potential attack?
- Mobile devices. Tablets are a great way to manage patient care, but are you prepared to wipe them remotely if they get stolen? Are they as secure against attacks as your computers? Mobile devices are often overlooked when companies come up with HIPAA compliance plans.
The Far-Reaching Effects of HIPAA in the Healthcare Industry
As you can see, HIPAA privacy breaches can happen more easily than you expect and may have consequences greater than you imagined. Luckily, with a little bit of preparation and planning, you can be prepared to handle HIPAA compliance within your organization even as hackers become more advanced and aggressive.