HIPAA Compliance for Small to Medium Businesses
HIPAA is a federally administered act that has had major impacts in healthcare record keeping. HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This act has ensured the privacy of patient’s healthcare records and changed a lot of things in the healthcare industry. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) defined a number of security standards and made it compulsory for hospitals and their employees to follow them. These security standards make sure that HIPAA is followed in every hospital without any negligence. HIPAA was introduced on 21st of August 1996. The main objective of formulating this act was to ensure that no unauthorized personnel is able to access patient’s medical records. This act was one of the major steps taken to safeguard the security and integrity of medical records.
What is HIPAA
Development of Privacy Policies
One of the very first steps that healthcare organizations must take is to devise a privacy and security policy for the healthcare records of their patients and ensure that these policies are properly implemented. These policies must be documented so that they can be shown officially whenever needed. These policies must include the steps that should be taken in case of any security breach related to patient’s records.
Mobile Device Policies
Another important step is to devise strict policies regarding the use of handheld devices such as mobile phones and tablets for storage of healthcare records. As these devices can be easily lost or stolen the storage of sensitive and protected healthcare information on them is often discouraged. However, if their use is necessary the organization must properly regulate them and should be informed immediately in case of lost or stolen devices.
Adoption of Potential Breach Protocols
Government regulations require the adoption of protocols that should be followed in case there is a breach in the security of healthcare records within your organization. In the case of any breach, a thorough investigation must be carried out and the findings of this investigation must be recorded. The results of this investigation should be shared with all parties concerned, even local authorities.
Adoption of Email Policies
Emails are often vulnerable to hackers and cybercriminals, so a strict security policy regarding the use of emails for healthcare records is needed. One of the best ways to ensure security while using emails is the use of encryption. If your organization is unable to use encryption you must inform the patient about possible security risks regarding information sharing over emails.
Appointment of Privacy and Security Officers
Security and privacy officers must be hired or appointed to overview all the activities in this regard. You can either hire different individuals for the two tasks or give both jobs to the same person. However, it must be ensured that these officers are well aware of all the HIPAA regulations and of the steps taken for its implementation.
When your organization enters into new business agreements and contracts you must make sure that they are legal and legitimate in every sense. This practice must be applied for all associates as well as subcontractors. Strict compliance to privacy policies should be ensured by the organization at every level.
Notice of Privacy Practices
All employees working in your organization who deal with healthcare records of patients should be properly trained and informed about HIPAA compliance. Training procedures must be documented and readily available.