HIPAA compliance consists of a complex set of regulations that organizations working with protected health information (PHI) are required to comply with. Navigating the complexities of HIPAA can be difficult without the help of a HIPAA expert. This leaves many organizations wondering, what is the key to HIPAA compliance?
What is the Key to HIPAA Compliance: HIPAA Safeguards
HIPAA requires the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI to be protected by implementing safeguards. The safeguards that must be implemented include administrative, physical, and technical safeguards.
- Administrative: Include creating policies and procedures dictating the proper use and disclosure of PHI. PHI should only be used or disclosed to complete a specific job function, known as the minimum necessary standard. To ensure that this standard is met, employees must be trained annually on their organization’s policies and procedures, as well as HIPAA standards.
- Physical: Include securing areas that contain PHI. Physical safeguards may include installing alarm systems, locks on doors and cabinets storing patient files, CCTV cameras, etc.
- Technical: Include securing devices that have access to electronic protected health information (ePHI). ePHI is protected health information in electronic form. Technical safeguards may include encryption, firewalls, antivirus, multi-factor authentication (MFA), etc.
What is the Key to HIPAA Compliance: Implementing an Effective Compliance Program
The answer to what is the key to HIPAA compliance is implementing an effective compliance program.
The components of a HIPAA compliance program include:
- Self-audits: To measure your organization’s compliance with HIPAA, you must complete annual self-audits. There are six required audits for HIPAA covered entities (CEs), and five for business associates (BAs).
- IT Risk Analysis Questionnaire: is meant to create a standard device installation and setup process across an entire organization.
- Security Standards: ensures that an organization’s security policies are in line with HIPAA requirements.
- HITECH Subtitle D: ensures that an organization has proper documentation and protocols in relation to Breach Notification.
- Asset and Device: is an itemized inventory of devices that contain ePHI. The device and asset list includes who uses the device and how an organization is protecting the device.
- Physical Site: each physical location must be assessed to determine if there are measures protecting PHI such as locks or alarm systems.
- Privacy Assessment (not required for BAs): assesses an organization’s privacy policies to ensure that PHI is used and disclosed in accordance with HIPAA.
- Gap Identification and Remediation: Completing self-audits allows you to identify areas in which your safeguards are lacking. Gap identification enables you to create remediation plans to address deficiencies.
- Policies and Procedures: As stated above, policies and procedures dictate the proper uses and disclosures of PHI. Policies and procedures must be customized for your organization to apply directly to your business processes, and must be reviewed annually to account for any changes in business operations. Failure to customize policies and procedures leaves your organization vulnerable as PHI may not be fully secured.
- Employee Training and Tracking: Also mentioned above, employee’s must be trained annually on your organization’s policies and procedures, as well as HIPAA standards. Employees must legally attest that they have read and understand the material that they were trained on. The ability to track employees’ training ensures that all employees are trained in a timely manner.
- Business Associate Management: Organizations working with protected health information are required to vet their business associates. Vetting BAs ensures that they are protecting the PHI that they create, receive, transmit, maintain, or store on your behalf. You can vet your BAs by sending them a vendor questionnaire. Similar to self-audits, vendor questionnaires assess the gaps in the business associate’s safeguards. To work with the BA, the vendor must agree to address identified gaps with remediation efforts. If the BA is unwilling to implement remediation plans, you should choose another vendor to work with. Additionally, they must be willing to sign a business associate agreement (BAA). A BAA is a legal document that dictates the safeguards the BA must have in place. It also limits the liability of each signing party as it requires each party to manage their own HIPAA compliance.
- Incident Management: If your organization is the victim of a healthcare breach, you must report the breach. If the breach affects less than 500 patients, you are required to report the incident within 60 days from the end of the calendar year to affected patients and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If the breach affects 500 or more patients, you must report it within 60 days of discovery to affected patients, the HHS, and the media.
Our HIPAA compliance software enables organizations to implement an effective HIPAA compliance program. In addition to having all of the components required by the HIPAA regulation, Compliancy Group offers clients guided support through our Compliance Coaches. Once you have completed our process, you are eligible to receive our HIPAA Seal of Compliance, meant to verify and validate that you have made your good faith effort towards compliance. We also provide you with full audit support through our Audit Response Program, if you are subject to a HIPAA audit — we have never failed an audit on behalf of our clients. Our HIPAA compliance program will give you peace of mind that your organization and patients are protected.