Organizations in the healthcare industry should take the necessary measures to operate in full compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protocols. An organization may face civil or criminal penalties if it fails.
It’s crucial to stay up-to-date with HIPAA compliance protocols. All organizations in the healthcare industry must ensure that everyone involved in the protected health information (PHI) chain fully complies with the HIPAA regulations, including business associates. It might be best to consider working with trusted HIPAA consulting services to ensure a good start.
For one, HIPAA compliance has become so complex over the years that even large-scale organizations frequently encounter compliance issues. If you want to make compliance manageable, here are several useful tips to get you on the right track.
Learn the Fundamentals of Noncompliance and Common Violations
Any organization dealing with PHI should implement the necessary policies, procedures, and safeguards.
Violations typically occur if there’s a failure to enforce them, even when PHI hasn’t been disclosed to or accessed by an unauthorized entity. Some of the violations include lack of risk analysis, absence of employee training, inability to report breaches within the stipulated timeframe, and improper exposure of information, to name a few.
Perform Regular Self-Audits and Execute Corrective Action Plans
Routine self-audits, ideally once a year, are critical in keeping your company HIPAA compliant. The yearly audits can help assess whether any physical, administrative, or technical issues might be responsible for violations. Although the assessments are insufficient to ensure compliance, they can greatly assist in identifying potential problem areas that require immediate attention.
Note the results of each internal audit and the changes you intend to make to your policies and procedures. Once you identify any potential weak points, you must devise appropriate corrective action plans to fix them. The timely management of these issues will ensure that your organization complies with HIPAA protocols.
Training and Education for the Workforce
You should know the importance of providing your workforce with adequate training and education. Regular training will make your employees knowledgeable and aware of the HIPAA regulations. Generally, the employee training should exemplify the importance of complying with HIPAA regulations. As the employees are the first in line, they should fully understand everything about compliance more than anyone else.
Ideally, it’s best to provide training for new hires and if there are changes in the policies or procedures in the organization. The training should also be specific to the function and role of your employees. For instance, the training for the healthcare personnel will be different for those in the IT department. Although time-consuming, it’s an effective method of lowering the risk of violations and fines.
Maintain Adequate Physical Safeguards
Data protection is critical if your company wants to remain HIPAA compliant.
Make it a priority to maintain the physical safeguards. In general, these are the physical controls on all equipment in the organization that limit access to databases and hardware that store, process or transfer critical information.
Some physical safeguard tips include controlling access to physical workstations, establishing security protocols when handling data, and keeping an inventory of all hardware containing sensitive information.
Implement Backup Protocols
It’s critical to remember that one of the most important HIPAA compliance measures is data backup. Organizations should establish and implement procedures to produce and maintain retrievable copies of PHI.
Keep all backup copies of information in a location different from the source. All the backup data must undergo encryption to comply with the security measures recommended under HIPAA.
Conduct Ongoing Risk Analysis
As part of the security measures, it’s crucial to implement ongoing risk analysis. The analysis result will serve as a basis to figure out which security protocols are reasonable and effective. In most cases, risk analysis entails evaluating the potential risks to PHI, implementing appropriate security measures to deal with the risks, documenting the most recent measures, and maintaining reasonable protection.
Strengthen Relationships with Business Associates
All business associates and vendors should also comply with the HIPAA compliance protocols. Determine whether your business associates are compliant and strictly adhere to proper procedures.
Business associates should make every effort to keep the protected health information they receive or create secure at all times. It’s preferable to require documentation that assures their compliance and encourages them to follow training and auditing procedures, preferably in the form of a contract or agreement.
Keeping your business compliant with the latest HIPAA protocols should always be a priority if you want to ensure all critical information remains safe and secure. Taking into consideration the proper preparations can help prevent costly fines, damage to your company’s reputation, and possible legal action in the future. These valuable tips will serve as your guide in ensuring your organization stays compliant with HIPAA protocols.
Jason is the Marketing Manager at a local advertising company in Australia. He moved to Australia 10 years back for his passion for advertising. Jason recently joined BFA as a volunteer writer and contributes by sharing his valuable experience and knowledge.