What is HIPAA Compliance?
Unless you’re a small business that doesn’t offer health insurance, to avoid potential HIPAA violations you have to abide by the rules and regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This legislation put in place certain standards to protect employees’ medical information, help make healthcare administration simpler, prevent healthcare fraud and allow employees to keep their coverage between jobs.
Due to the importance of keeping protected health information (PHI) for your patients and employees, it’s imperative for your organization to put safeguards and electronic protection measures in place to prevent HIPAA violations.
Avoiding HIPAA Violations
As information becomes increasingly accessible and cyberattacks become more sophisticated in this digital age, the need for effective electronic protection and HIPAA safeguards has never been greater.
In light of this widespread digitization, an increasingly common violation in recent years has been a failure to put HIPAA safeguards in place that protect the confidentiality, integrity and accessibility of PHI. These safeguards are some of the easiest yet often neglected defenses you can give yourself against HIPAA violations.
It is worth mentioning, however, that HIPAA compliance isn’t just about preventing data breaches — cyberattacks can still be successful even if you’re following HIPAA guidelines. The point is minimizing the opportunities for the PHI in your care to be compromised.
Data Protection Best Practices
There are several best practices you can implement to improve the electronic protection for your PHI, including standard defenses, such as a firewall that blocks unauthorized users, a spam filter to catch malware, antivirus software and privacy controls that prevent improper access from inside the organization.
Other best practices, which layer on top of each other to form “defense in depth,” include:
- An intrusion detection system for irregular network activity
- Auditing solutions that detect the unauthorized access
- Extensive backups to make sure PHI is never lost
When used in conjunction, these protective measures will greatly reduce your organization’s chances of violating HIPAA regulations.
What is a HIPAA Violation in Workplace
The first step to avoiding HIPAA violations is knowing how these violations can occur. There are several ways your company can risk breaking compliance guidelines, but these are the 10 most common HIPAA violations to be aware of:
- Unauthorized access of PHI
- Failure to conduct a thorough risk analysis
- Lack of risk management processes and security evaluation
- Failure to enter a HIPAA-compliant business associate agreement
- Lack of sufficient access controls for online PHI
- No encryption or acceptable alternative in place to protect PHI on portable devices
- Failure to notify a person of the Office for Civil Rights of any PHI security incidents within 60 days
- Impermissible disclosure of PHI
- Improper disposal of PHI
- Failure to give patients access to copies of their PHI upon request
By implementing layers of electronic protection to safeguard your patient and employees’ PHI and possessing a better understanding of possible HIPAA violations, you’ll keep your organization operating within HIPAA’s guidelines.
Finally, when your electronic equipment reaches the end of its useful life, you would be well-advised to take it to an e-waste recycling specialist, such as Potomac eCycle to make certain that all data is irretrievably destroyed.