HIPAA, otherwise known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, sets certain standards for how you handle and safeguard patient data. If you are in the healthcare business, you are required by law to be in compliance. But what does that mean exactly and why is it important? Let’s examine compliance a little closer so you can understand why it is a must for your business.
What It Means to Be HIPAA Compliant
There are many elements that make up the security standards set forth by HIPAA. In order to be compliant, you must meet all of them and continue to evaluate your systems as you move forward.
There are two main types of safeguards that you have to put in place: physical safeguards and technical safeguards.
Physical safeguards cover anything physical, including limited access to the facility and strict controls on who gets access. These safeguards also extend to any company you are working with that has access to your facility and the electronic storage media you use as well.
Technical safeguards cover who, what, and how people access and use the health data stored on your servers. This includes various aspects of security such as unique user IDs, emergency access policies, automatic log off policies, and encryption and decryption methods and usage.
Network and Transmission Security
One of the latest safeguards put in place by HIPAA is network and transmission security. These regulations cover how you transmit data and govern everything associated with that data, including email, file transmissions, Internet, and more. These policies not only dictate how you handle transmissions from one network to another, but even how data is handled on private networks as well.
These policies include how you handle data and media in your organization. Set procedures and plans must be put in place for things such as disaster recovery and offsite backups, and even include how IT will handle any media failures to ensure the integrity of patient data and the policies you will use to quickly retrieve that data if needed.
In addition to your security policies, you must put in place procedures to follow to enforce the new rules put in place and include the penalties that can be incurred if employees do not adhere to the standards and procedures to the letter. You must also continue to enforce these rules as you move forward.
HIPAA extends far beyond what you would consider traditional security. In order to be HIPAA compliant, you will need to put in place set policies and procedures to follow if there is a data breach. These policies include how you notify any affected parties.
So Why Try to Be Compliant?
Why bother agreeing to these complicated regulations just to reach compliance? The quick answer is that compliance is the law! If you are dealing with anything healthcare related, including patient records, you must be compliant in order to conduct business. Second, compliance can be a huge selling point for your business, even you don’t deal with healthcare data today. Security has become an increasing concern among both businesses and individuals, and if you meet the government standards for security, you will be able to advertise that to your customers.
HIPAA compliance is complicated yet must be followed and adhered to by any business or individual that handles healthcare data. The more familiar you become with these regulations, the less likely you are to fall out of compliance. As complicated as HIPAA is, there are benefits. Not only will your business be more secure, it will meet important government standards that safeguard sensitive data. That’s peace of mind to your security-minded customers.