Maintaining HIPAA Compliance

November 9, 2022
HIPAA compliance doesn’t have to be complicated. These tips for success can make maintaining your regulatory compliance plan fairly straightforward and simple.

Maintaining a compliant status with HIPAA Law

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a set of US federal laws that protect the health and medical information of patients. HIPAA's basic requirements state that medical and health data about individuals must be securely safeguarded while still allowing for necessary information flow in order to deliver and advance high-quality healthcare and safeguard the health and welfare of the general public. It also mandates that businesses protect data by addressing the technical and non-technical security measures that businesses subject to HIPAA must implement to protect patients' electronic medical records.

Maintaining compliance with HIPAA is vital for any business or organization that deals with medical or health-related consumer data. A compliance strategy isn’t just a “set it and forget it” process. It requires ongoing efforts to ensure compliance. In this guide, we’ll break down some of our top tips for success in terms of maintaining HIPAA compliance.

Maintaining HIPAA Compliance: Tips for Success

Implement Initial and Ongoing HIPAA Training for Your Staff

It is necessary to provide your teams with regular HIPAA training and policy attestation. The foundation of your compliance operations is education. Administrative and physical measures are related to employees directly under the HIPAA privacy requirement. Offering streamlined HIPAA compliance training helps organizations deploy the right measures with greater efficiency. All companies can be sure they are taking all the reasonable steps to secure Protected Health Information (PHI)  by ensuring associate knowledge and understanding.

Regular training maintains HIPAA knowledge up to date and guarantees that everyone is supportive when new regulations are implemented. Set up regular meetings to go over security, privacy, and breach reporting policies with your staff. You might also think about giving tests to assess the effectiveness of your training sessions. Your staff's awareness of the dos and don'ts related to preserving PHI will rise if you take the time to properly and frequently train them.

Conduct Regular HIPAA Assessments

Assessments and audits can be very useful to organizations that need to be HIPAA compliant. The need for risk assessments in establishing and maintaining HIPAA compliance for covered companies and their business connections is not just useful, but should also be considered a necessity. 

Organizations are required by HIPAA's Security Rule to identify any potential risks to PHI. It is advised that healthcare providers perform complete risk analyses on a regular basis that take into account HIPAA's administrative, physical, and evaluation criteria. In fact, using a third-party auditing team of compliance experts and IT professionals who have the know-how and resources to identify a company's security risks and network holes that cybercriminals could exploit to their advantage may be a good option.

Risk assessments and audits should be conducted on a regular basis. Organizations like Accountable HQ can be helpful in terms of automating such assessments and audits, so you can reduce the amount of time and resources that go into regular testing.

Develop a Sturdy Compliance Management Program from the Get-Go

To stay current with HIPAA regulations, establish and maintain an assertive management program within your company. Sensitive data is constantly at risk from new security risks that emerge in the digital world. Implementing and upholding an authoritative program within your company will ensure uninterrupted HIPAA compliance. When hazards arise, they can be managed and addressed with the appropriate resources. Your strategy goes beyond simply identifying hazards. Instead, it emphasizes preemptive measures to protect data integrity and confidentiality throughout time.

Include an incident response plan in your data management program as well. A risk analysis, as we stated previously, is the first stage in developing an incident response plan. It is a physical examination to find security strengths and vulnerabilities. Without one, you cannot be HIPAA compliant. The analysis is intended to evaluate the organization's potential for protecting health information vulnerabilities, threats, and dangers. Second, you'll need to organize a breach response team that will act on your company's behalf in the event of a catastrophe. When you're done, make sure to verify the accuracy of your plan.

Always Require Formal Agreements with Your Vendors and Providers

Covered entities must enter into contracts with "business associates" in accordance with HIPAA. Business Associate Agreements are the name given to these contracts. Any person or organization who produces receives, or maintains PHI on behalf of the covered entity is referred to as a business associate. Any provider of backups falls under this. A Business Associate Contract will be entered into with covered entities by some suppliers as part of their strategies to support HIPAA compliance and comply with the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule. If for any reason your vendors do not offer such compliance capabilities, draft your own contract with them and ensure that they agree with the information noted in the agreement.

Understand How COVID-19 Will Affect HIPAA in the Long-Term

Healthcare will never be the same again as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, and HIPAA compliance will also change. Because of this, taking COVID-19 into consideration in your firm's cybersecurity, physical security, and compliance components that may be affected is a crucial item on your HIPAA compliance checklist. Remote work and telemedicine are the main factors that the majority of healthcare practitioners and covered businesses must take into consideration. PHI about patients is being managed from more places, often on personal devices in people's homes. The HHS made the decision to temporarily halt HIPAA-related fines and penalties in order to take this into account.

To ensure compliance over the long term in the work-from-home, telehealth-centric era, further safeguards surrounding PHI handling must be taken as the transition may or may not be permanent. To make it absolutely obvious who is managing what kinds of PHI, you'll want to strictly identify and regulate device ownership. Guidelines for how healthcare institutions should handle vaccination status as PHI in 2022 and beyond were recently provided by the HHS. How, where, and to whom a patient's vaccination PHI can be released are all outlined in great detail in the most recent notification. The necessary procedures should be included in your compliance plan, and your HIPAA compliance team should make sure personnel only discloses vaccination status in ways that are HIPAA-compliant.

Understand the Ever-Evolving Realm of HIPAA Violations for Ongoing Compliance

You must have a solid grasp of what a HIPAA violation is and how it happens in order to take preventative measures. HIPAA violations can happen in a variety of ways. Internal violations are the most frequent sort of infraction, not data breaches or hacks by outside parties. Most privacy rule infractions are the result of carelessness or a lack of training.

For example, data breaches are typical HIPAA violations. A data leak doesn't always include an outside hack. A data breach is defined by HIPAA as any unlawful access to PHI by individuals or entities. You'll need a robust cybersecurity program to keep hackers out, as well as appropriate internal security measures and training, to prevent data breaches.

Keep your thumb on the pulse of data breaches and trending types of breaches in the news to ensure that your plan can be updated with protections against new types of breaches.

Conclusion

There are a lot of components that go into achieving and maintaining HIPAA Compliance. And although compliance is not something you can set up one time and leave to run independently afterward, it is something that you do not have to manage or keep up with day in and day out. This is especially true if you choose to partner with an all-in-one HIPAA Compliance Management Solution, like us here at Accountable. We can assist you through each of every aspect of compliance mentioned above, plus our platform has a ton of features that we haven’t even touched on. Best of all? We offer an unlimited, 14-day, no-credit-card-required free trial so you can experience it all for yourself. Give us a try today

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