Being aware of HIPAA doesn’t mean you’re fully-versed in the requirements your practice needs to follow. In order to fill in the gaps, and to ensure your HIPAA Business Associates do as well, you have to first figure out where those gaps are.
We know that feels overwhelming – you don’t know what you don’t know, and you may think that you have every HIPAA requirement covered. Where there’s patient data, though, there’s a potential risk, and far too many practices are more exposed to those risks than they realize.
Here are five questions to ask yourself to determine how well-versed you are in HIPAA compliance.
Today, numerous cloud services, devices and systems that contain sensitive data have made vulnerability mushroom. Not only are the threats to your data multiple, sophisticated and constantly changing, but the implications for your IT department are incredibly complex. Without state-of-the-art security tools, managed IT and the proper tech capabilities, your patient information (and your reputation) is in jeopardy. Since even the best IT directors aren’t necessarily HIPAA authorities, comprehensive IT security means having a dedicated expert who specializes in HIPAA compliance.
Let’s say you don’t know where there are gaps in your HIPAA policies and compliance, or when you do catch a threat, you don’t have a reliable process for determining the root cause. Here are just a few things that can happen to your business:
- Damage to your brand reputation
- Financial penalties
- Loss of productivity
- Liability for non-compliance
Small- and medium-sized businesses deserve the same level of protection as enterprises do. Your practice is more than qualified to receive industrial-strength processes under a strong security umbrella.
There are several lesser-known HIPAA requirements that even a person with working knowledge of HIPAA compliance may not be familiar with. These requirements typically extend past password policies and into the realm of the more advanced policies you need to have set up and how you demonstrate compliance with those policies. For example:
- How do you guarantee that a medical professional at your practice won’t walk away from a chart that’s laying on a table?
- Where is the assurance that an employee won’t leave client information up on a monitor?
- How does your IT infrastructure safeguard protected health information (PHI)?
Demonstrating HIPAA compliance goes beyond, “Well, we tell our employees to not leave client information on the monitor.” According to HIPAA, computer screens must be pointed away from the public; privacy sliding doors must be installed at reception desks; and employees have to log off workstations when leaving an area.
In order to show that your practice is in line with HIPAA requirements, the processes and results of audits, assessments and training have to be documented. The IT department also has to be continuously monitoring for suspicious activity, using forensic analysis to detect threats, and regularly scanning for vulnerabilities so they can be caught as early as possible.
Every employee and team has to be made aware of HIPAA requirements and understand why compliance and cybersecurity are so important in regards to PHI. Getting employees involved and clarifying what’s expected of them will help close gaps in responsibility.
The truth is that HIPAA compliance is absolutely attainable, but it’s best to think of it as a journey. There’s no one point of arrival, no final destination.
Compliance is an ever-expanding territory that you’ll always be monitoring, managing and adapting to. Contact us for help getting your practice up to speed with HIPAA requirements.