Compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) isn’t a singular event; instead, it’s one that you have to make time for, both between annual assessments and day-to-day. While you may have limited funds to take care of all HIPAA requirements, you still need to prioritize HIPAA assessments and network security.
With so many devices and systems that contain sensitive information, your organization’s protected health information (PHI) is always vulnerable. Protecting healthcare information is complex, and not every company or medical practice has a staff that can keep the organization compliant without outside help and expertise. If you don’t have the in-house capabilities necessary to stay compliant, you may consider hiring an outside provider.
Not every provider is going to match perfectly with your needs, though. It’s important to first determine what your IT department has covered so you can then find the provider who offers the other services necessary for full compliance.
Here are 5 tips to Help You Identify a Managed IT Provider Who Can Best Manage Your HIPAA Compliance:
1. Service level agreement outlines how they help
It’s important not to assume your Managed IT Services provider or “IT guy” is managing your compliance. it should be explicitly outlined in conversations and explained what items in the service level agreement align with your compliance requirements.
Not every provider has the tools and capabilities to manage your HIPAA compliance. Many IT providers won’t even touch HIPAA compliance, but this isn’t always disclosed to a healthcare provider or business that is required to comply with HIPAA.
2. Security capabilities specific to HIPAA compliance
You want a Managed Services Provider (MSP) with specialized knowledge and experience in HIPAA, not one who can only provide general IT security. Some of the specific capabilities you should look for include:
- Tools for managing HIPAA-related security incidences and events
- Managed detection and response with threat intelligence that focuses on your organization’s specific risks
- Processes for elevating your organization to meet compliance requirements
- Ability to keep up-to-date with HIPAA news and changes
- Means for managing your business associates and ensuring they stay compliant
- Penetration testing to show HIPAA-specific network vulnerabilities, especially regarding common risks like poor password management and remote access issues
Furthermore, you want to make sure your provider will prioritize HIPAA compliance requirements and tasks so that everything is taken care of in the most efficient order.
3. Complementary capabilities that work in harmony with your staff
The most useful managed IT providers will complement your staff, not replace them. Think of your provider as a partner in compliance. If your IT department already has some areas of compliance completely covered, look for a provider who can fill in the gaps you have. It’s not necessary to find a provider who overlaps your strengths. Think about the areas of compliance you either (a) can’t afford to cover or (b) don’t have the skills or knowledge to handle, then search for a provider to address those specific needs.
4. Reliable monitoring and reporting
HIPAA compliance doesn’t take a break and neither should your MSP. Look for a service that provides around-the-clock monitoring of your systems, consistently updating software and identifying any potential threats before they take root in the network. Look for providers who regularly meet with you and deliver reports on where your practice stands with strategic and compliance initiatives.
5. Credibility and a proven track record of success
Ask for referrals but don’t forget to take the next most important step: following up with those referrals! It’s a red flag if the provider won’t give you referral information in the first place, but when they do provide references, it’s important to find out what those references have to say.
No matter what criteria you use to select an MSP to help manage your HIPAA compliance, know this: your managed IT services provider must sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). Whether they are helping with your HIPAA compliance or not. This is a basic HIPAA requirement. If they’re accessing your network, systems, and devices, they can potentially encounter PHI and are therefore beholden to HIPAA compliance themselves. Without a BAA, any breach suffered by them becomes a liability for your practice.
If you’re in need of an IT provider who knows the ins and outs of HIPAA compliance, contact Deerwood Technologies today. We offer the full spectrum of services to mitigate risks to your PHI and help your practice maintain HIPAA compliance.