As tech and cellular networks continue to improve and become more ubiquitous, our personal data (and especially our health data) continue to become more and more vulnerable while being hosted in the cloud.
This is an especially burdensome problem for healthcare organizations who are attempting to keep hundreds of thousands of patients' data safe and compliant with strict HIPAA guidelines.
In this article, we will address the existing challenges that modern healthcare organizations face while attempting to traverse the risky healthcare compliance space.
What does it mean to be HIPAA Compliant?
Per the HHS website, The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) required the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop regulations protecting the privacy and security of certain health information.
To fulfill this requirement, HHS published what are commonly known as the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule.
The Privacy Rule, or Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information, establishes national standards for the protection of certain health information.
The Security Standards for the Protection of Electronic Protected Health Information (the Security Rule) establish a national set of security standards for protecting certain health information that is held or transferred in electronic form.
The Security Rule operationalizes the protections contained in the Privacy Rule by addressing the technical and non-technical safeguards that organizations called “covered entities” must put in place to secure individuals’ “electronic protected health information” (e-PHI).
The electronic protection and overcoming the difficulties that this process presents is important for any healthcare organization to keep in mind.
What are the challenges for organizations looking to become and remain HIPAA compliant?
Given the vast amounts of data that most healthcare organizations must protect from the grips of the dark web, there are several main areas that a protection plan must focus on.
Overcoming external threats to cyber security
One of the most common and most risky areas of healthcare organization compliance is in the cyber communication space.
Email presents numerous opportunities for healthcare workers to accidentally send protected patient health information across unsecured networks.
This leaves data vulnerable for outsiders and hackers to grab a hold of.
Phishing is another avenue hackers can take to lure healthcare workers into handing over protected information.
Phishing is a cyber attack that uses disguised email as a weapon. The goal is to trick the email recipient into believing that the message is something they want or need — a request from their bank, for instance, or a note from someone in their company — and to click a link or download an attachment.
Having adequate risk management plans after a security breach
Another chink in the HIPAA armor of most modern healthcare organizations is the lack of planning for responding to a security breach when they occur.
This is referred to as having proper Enterprise Risk Management.
A sufficient Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) should promote a comprehensive framework for making risk management decisions.
This maximizes value protection by managing risk and uncertainty in comparison to their connections to total value.
The elements of ERM include:
1. Comprehensive framework
Including an organization-wide approach to risk management. This is a collaborative approach amongst disciplines including leaders in patient safety, quality, incident reporting, compliance, clinical teams, and executive team.
2. Value protection
Including focus on quality outcomes, patient safety, and efficient use of resources.
3. Value creation
Including strategies to increase market share, improve return on investment (ROI), and improve patient satisfaction.
4. Managing uncertainty
Reduce risks, promote standardization and reduce variability.
Creating and Enforcing a culture of compliance among your healthcare team
Aside from putting sufficient software and cyber protection in place, one of the most potent forms of HIPAA compliance and data protection comes from the proper compliance training amongst staff and enforcing diligent compliance culture throughout the organization.
Of course, this comes with its own set of challenges.
It can be difficult to train employees in compliance; often, there’s only one risk manager or compliance manager in a department, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to help the organization remain in compliance.
Employee negligence or failure to follow protocol can contribute to lapses in compliance.
Other issues include keeping the necessary documentation prepared for potential HIPAA audits, and having a clear understanding of each vendor’s responsibility in case of a breach.
What are the best compliance SOFTWARE for healthcare organizations?
Having the proper compliance software and IT barriers in place can remove a lot of the headache associated with HIPAA security.
Simply keeping protected patient information in Excel spreadsheets or email folders is woefully inadequate when going head to head with today's sophisticated attacks from the outside web.
A proper software solution should be agile enough for employees and staff to easily use day-to-day from mobile units such as an iPad or iPhone and submit reports along with patient data at the click of a button, rather than tracking it all in Excel or on paper.
The software should also be HIPAA compliant. Many compliance softwares out there are not built specifically for healthcare organizations, so it’s important to check that whatever software your team decides upon is in compliance with HIPAA guidelines.
HIPAA And Health Care Solutions
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