Hospital HIPAA Compliance

While staffing shortages continue to afflict the hospital sector, administrators scramble to keep their hospitals adequately staffed. The ones that manage to keep staff are often paying an excessive amount to temporary staff, such as traveling nurses, to maintain their standard of care. 

In situations such as these, compliance often falls to the wayside. Achieving and maintaining HIPAA compliance seems like such a huge undertaking when you have other considerations to worry about.

Hospital Staffing Shortages

Due to the working conditions during the height of the COVID pandemic, an unprecedented number of nurses have retired early. As a result, many hospitals hired temporary employees from staffing agencies, at triple the cost of a regular employee’s salary. So far, staffing shortages since the pandemic have cost hospitals an estimated $24 billion to mitigate.

This does not look to be a trend that will end anytime soon. Mercer predicts that by 2026, U.S. hospitals will be short staffed by 3.2 million healthcare workers.

Hospital HIPAA Compliance

As a hospital you are likely looking to cut costs. That doesn’t mean you should ignore your HIPAA requirements. The cost of noncompliance is extremely high, especially when a noncompliant organization is breached, which can lead to remediation costs, reputational damage, and HIPAA fines.

Rather than throwing caution to the wind, you should consider using a HIPAA compliance software solution. By using a software solution to become HIPAA compliant, you drastically reduce the amount of time and money spent on implementing a HIPAA compliance program.

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What does a hospital HIPAA compliance program consist of?

Security Risk Assessments, Gap Identification, and Remediation

To be HIPAA compliant, it is crucial to identify where your deficiencies lie. To do so, healthcare organizations must conduct six self-audits annually. These self-audits uncover weaknesses and vulnerabilities in your security practices. To ensure that your organization meets HIPAA safeguard requirements, you must create remediation plans. Remediation plans list your identified deficiencies and how you plan to address them, including actions and a timeline.

HIPAA Policies and Procedures

To ensure that you meet HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification requirements, you must implement written policies and procedures. These policies and procedures must be customized for your practice’s specific needs, applying directly to how your business operates. To account for any changes in your business practices, you must review your policies and procedures annually and make amendments where appropriate.

Employee HIPAA Training

To make sure that your employees are aware of their responsibilities regarding the HIPAA rules, they must be trained annually. This training must cover HIPAA basics, an overview of your organization’s policies and procedures, and cybersecurity best practices.

Business Associate Agreements

Business associate agreements must be signed with each of your business associate vendors. HIPAA defines a business associate as any entity that performs a service for your practice that gives them the potential to access PHI. Common examples of business associates include electronic health records platforms, email service providers, online appointment scheduling software, and cloud storage providers. 

You cannot use any vendor and be HIPAA compliant. They need to be willing and able to sign a business associate agreement (BAA). A BAA is a legal contract that requires each signing party to be HIPAA compliant and be responsible for maintaining their compliance. When a vendor doesn’t sign a BAA, they cannot be used for business associate services.

Incident Management

To comply with the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule, you must have a system to detect, respond to, and report breaches. Employees must also have the means to report incidents anonymously and be aware of what to do if they suspect a breach has occurred.

Are you using HIPAA compliant tools?

Make sure you’re following all of the HIPAA rules.