Organizations within the healthcare industry are always concerned about HIPAA compliance, and receiving the notification for a HIPAA audit, or worse, a fine for the violation of HIPAA security rules and regulations – and for a good reason.
HIPAA, more formally known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is a legislation by the US that provides data security and privacy provisions for protecting medical related information.
The act, which was signed by President Bill Clinton on August 21, 1996, contains five sections, each focusing on data protection against breaches and cyberattacks on medical related information stored by health providers and insurers.
Here are some of the frequently asked questions about HIPAA:
- What is protected under HIPAA? The HIPAA laws are in place to protect any identifiable information relating to the past, present, or future health or condition of an individual that may have been collected by an entity covered under the law.
- What businesses are required to comply with HIPAA laws? All healthcare entities that electronically transmit, process, or store medical records or related information regarding any patient are known as covered entities, and are required to comply with HIPAA laws. Furthermore, all healthcare providers that receive payment for services or charge for any portion of a payment relating to medical services are also considered a covered entity. You can get more information on covered entities from the §160.102 Applicability and §160.103 Definitions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. HIPAA Online Training are also available for businesses that could help them in meeting the compliance requirements.
- What is Protected Health Information (PHI)? PHI is any individually identifiable health information that a covered entity stores or transmits in different formats, such as electronically through paper, or orally.
- Are pictures considered part of PHI? Yes. Pictures relating to an individual’s health record are considered to be part of PHI and must be treated in the same manner as any other type of PHI, and should thus not be disclosed.
- How does HIPAA apply to professional individuals? HIPAA protects PHI from being disclosed or used without your authorization. In addition, if you were to change jobs or switch your healthcare provider, your new employer’s health plan is required to accept you regardless of your current health status and history.
- When does HIPAA require information to be encrypted? The HIPAA laws require any information that identifies an individual to be encrypted when sent over a public network, such as the Internet.
- Is a student’s health information file covered under HIPAA? HIPAA doesn’t cover the contents of a student’s education file. Instead, they are covered under the Family Educational Right and Privacy Act (FERPA). In addition, if a student signs up for student health services, that information is covered under HIPAA.
- Does HIPAA cover health information stored in an employee’s human resources file?No. HIPAA doesn’t cover any medical information stored in an employee’s personal file.
- What are the penalties for failing to maintain HIPAA compliance? Fines for noncompliance with HIPAA can range anywhere from $100 to a maximum of $1,500,000 per year and can also include up to 10 years of jail time for any intentional abuse or misuse of an individual’s health information.
- Does HIPAA require consent from a patient for the use or disclose of health information for treatment? HIPAA provides the permit to use or disclose their medical information for payment, treatment, or any other healthcare-related activities and does not require a covered entity to seek consent from the individual.
- When is an “authorization” for the disclosure of medical information required under HIPAA? The Privacy Rule requires all covered entities to obtain authorization for uses or disclosures of information that is otherwise not allowed by the rule. The authorization must clearly indicate the number of elements and a description of the health information being used or disclosed.
- Can an individual revoke their authorization? Under HIPAA, an individual has the right to revoke their authorization at any given time. The revocation needs to be in writing and becomes effective as soon as the covered entity receives the notice.
- Where can I get training on HIPAA compliance? Several online training courses offer professionals with all the information they need to maintain their HIPAA compliance.
For additional information regarding HIPAA, or to learn more about HIPAA laws, visit the Department of Health & Human Services.
HIPPA compliance ensures that a healthcare organization fulfills the essential security requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It is a US legislation that makes it mandatory for healthcare providers to reinforce the protection of the confidential patient information.
HIPAA rules and regulations are designed in a way that they can be applied equally to all the different types of covered entities, regardless of whether they are a health plan provider, health care clearinghouse, or direct healthcare provider. Furthermore, they also apply to all the business associates or individuals who are responsible for providing a particular service or serve a function for the said covered entity. Business associates include the accountants, technical support staff, IT contractors, billing companies, encryption service providers, lawyers, and others involved in protecting crucial healthcare data.
Here is the ultimate checklist for healthcare organizations to follow in order to ensure complete HIPAA compliance.
- Providing Physical Safeguards. Organizations must ensure that they install physical safeguards to limit access to critical information. These safeguards include only authorized access to priority areas, strict policies about admission to workstations, and the use of electronic media for holding sensitive health information. Policies to safeguard access to patient information and inventory of all hardware used to obtain electronic protected health information (ePHI) must be maintained.
- Installing Technical Safeguards. Technical safeguards are the electronic passes that limit easy access to ePHI. They include user-specific ID and password, multi-factor identification for login purposes, encryption tools, authentication mechanisms, information access audits, and automatic logout features, which prevent unauthorized access to important medical information at all times.
- Place Administrative Safeguards. For administrative safeguards, organizations must conduct security risk assessments, train employees to comply with HIPAA rules and regulations, and enforce a risk management policy. Furthermore, it is essential to develop and test a contingency plan, in case things don’t go as planned.
- Ensuring Network and Transmission Security. Organizations need to ensure the protection of ePHI, as it is transferred and transmitted across electronic pathways. They must also mediate the unauthorized transfer of data through email, the Internet, private networks, and clouds.
- Having Strict Technical Policies in Place. Technical policies, which ensure the integrity of the data, are crucial for organizations to comply with HIPAA regulations. There should be a specific IT disaster recovery solution in place, as well as an offsite backup plan to ensure that no data is lost upon the failure of an electronic gadget.
- Conduct Regular Risk Analysis. Organizations need to conduct a regularly scheduled risk analysis in order to thoroughly evaluate all the security systems and pinpoint possible security risks and points of breach. This is a necessary step to prevent HIPAA noncompliance implications from occurring in the future.
- Review and Update All HIPAA Polices. HIPAA policies and procedures are subjected to change with new technology – and the advancement in hacking techniques. As such, it’s essential for healthcare organizations to stay up-to-date with the current policies to overcome any security gaps.
- Organize Regular HIPAA Audits. Audits via strict HIPAA audit programs allow healthcare organizations to demonstrate to the regulatory body that they comply with the HIPAA security rules and regulations. An audit also helps streamline internal procedures, securing information against possible breaches and unauthorized internal and external access to critical data.
- Provide Employee Education for HIPAA Compliance. Employee education is one of the most crucial steps for the complete organizational compliance of HIPAA policies and regulations. A HIPAA online training course is indispensable for employees, who come in contact with or have access to sensitive patient information, to prevent noncompliance. If the workforce has a thorough understanding of all the important rules, they can also help with the implementation of policies, where necessary.
- HIPAA Compliance Training. Professionals associated with healthcare organizations need to be aware of the HIPAA rules and security regulations to ensure that they don’t end up violating its clauses. A thorough understanding of all the requirements is essential for insurance professionals, healthcare providers, and business associates to make sure that they not only protect their own interests, but also of their patients properly.