How a HIPAA Compliance Officer and
HIPAA IT Specialist Differ

HIPAA compliance officer and IT specialist

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare organizations to appoint a HIPAA compliance officer. In addition, although it is not required, having a HIPAA IT specialist, either on staff or contracted, allows healthcare organizations to implement advanced cybersecurity tools that are required to secure protected health information (PHI).

What is a HIPAA Compliance Officer?

A HIPAA compliance officer is an employee that manages an organization’s HIPAA compliance. The HIPAA compliance officer ensures that privacy and security standards are upheld in accordance with HIPAA requirements. In larger organizations, the role may be divided between two employees, one of which would be designated a HIPAA privacy officer, the other a HIPAA security officer.

What is a HIPAA Privacy Officer?

A HIPAA privacy officer is charged with ensuring the development, implementation, and maintenance of policies and procedures in reference to the permitted use and disclosure of PHI. The HIPAA privacy officer must ensure that their organization upholds the standards set forth by the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Although it is not required to hire an employee solely to be your HIPAA privacy officer, you must designate an employee to fill the role. 

Creating a Privacy Oversight Committee allows organizations to manage the risk, safety, quality, compliance, and audits of the company. The purpose of the committee is to maintain oversight of security and privacy measures.

The following are the key responsibilities of a HIPAA privacy officer:

  • Establish the Privacy Oversight Committee and oversee meetings
  • Conduct a privacy risk assessment
  • Ensure that PHI maintains confidentiality
  • Conduct employee orientation and privacy training
  • Create business associate agreements (BAAs) and monitor business associates (BAs) to ensure that they are upholding HIPAA privacy requirements
  • Track access to PHI
  • Create a process for documenting, investigating, and tracking suspected breaches
  • Monitor employees’ compliance with privacy policies and procedures
  • Keep up-to-date with changes in state and federal privacy laws

What is a HIPAA Security Officer?

A HIPAA security officer manages an organization’s security policies and procedures to ensure that their technical safeguards are in line with the HIPAA Security Rule. The HIPAA Security Rule mandates that the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI is maintained. In smaller organizations, this role is generally filled by an employee in the IT department, however larger organizations often need to hire someone specifically for this role.

The following are key responsibilities of the HIPAA security officer:

  • Develop policies and procedures for information security systems
  • Be aware of how electronic protected health information (ePHI) is handled, maintained, transmitted, and stored
  • Conduct employee security training
  • Ensure that security practices are upheld in accordance with the HIPAA Security Rule 
  • Conduct risk assessments and other security audits
  • Correct security deficiencies that leave your organization vulnerable to breaches
  • Monitor business associates (BAs) to ensure that they are upholding HIPAA security requirements
  • Keep up-to-date with changes in state and federal security laws

What is a HIPAA IT Specialist?

Smaller healthcare organization may not have a dedicated IT staff. As such they may consider contracting a HIPAA IT specialist to manage their security. Healthcare organizations are often susceptible to breaches, as the wealth of information they hold on their patients is extremely valuable and they lack robust cybersecurity.

The following are key responsibilities of a HIPAA IT specialist:

  • Conduct a security risk assessment
  • Implement cybersecurity tools such as firewalls, encryption, and data backup
  • Manage employee cybersecurity training
  • Update security measures when necessary
  • Monitor systems to prevent breaches
  • Keep up-to-date with changes in state and federal security laws

Do you Need Help with you HIPAA Compliance?

Compliancy Group gives healthcare providers and vendors working in healthcare the tools to confidently address their HIPAA compliance in a simplified manner. Our cloud-based HIPAA compliance software, the GuardTM, gives healthcare professionals everything they need to demonstrate their “good faith effort” towards HIPAA compliance.

To address HIPAA cybersecurity requirements, Compliancy Group works with IT and Managed Service Provider (MSP) security partners from across the country, who can be contracted to handle your HIPAA cybersecurity protection.

Find out more about how Compliancy Group helps you simplify compliance and cybersecurity today!

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