HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) guidelines were introduced in 1996 to protect the health information of patients and till today, compliance to these guidelines is a must for physicians. Even in 2019, practices will be required to adhere to the HIPAA rules and maintain the confidentiality of sensitive patient data. They will need a certain organizational method for implementing the comprehensive security and privacy policies to achieve compliance.
Since HIPAA compliance can be a daunting task for most healthcare organizations, here’s a checklist that can they consider making the process easy:
The first thing that practices need to do is to understand how HIPAA policies are applicable to their organization and why is it necessary to comply. Failure in complying with the guidelines can put the patients’ health information at risk. If there are security breaches, the reputation of the practice will have a disastrous impact. It can also lead to disciplinary actions and strict fines by the CMS/OCR.
There is a lot of damage that practices can suffer if the adequate systems are not in place. In case of a breach, the practice will have to submit various disclosure documents and go through a lot of hassles. All this will add up to significant dollars. Considering these challenges, it is important for practices to learn how to implement an active process and the right technologies for preventing a HIPAA-related breach or even accidental disclosures.
It is vital for practices to put technical as well as physical safeguards in place for protection of patient data. Practices need to conduct the necessary audits and assessments as per the NIST (National Institutes of Standards and Technology) guidelines. If these audits have identified issues or deficiencies, then they need to be addressed. There needs to be a thorough remediation plan for addressing the deficiencies.
It is important for practices to see if they have all the policies and procedures in place that are relevant to the HIPAA Security Rule, HIPAA Privacy Rule and HIPAA Breach Notification Rule. These important aspects of the HIPAA compliance program need to be taken into consideration and addressed adequately.
To protect the practice from heavy fines and data loss, staff at the practice should also be given basic HIPAA compliance training and there should be a designated staff as the HIPAA compliance officer present at the practice.