HIPAA Guidance for Practice Managers
When it comes to all covered entities, but specifically medical practices, managing HIPAA compliance can be a serious headache. Plus, practice or office managers are often forced to wear many hats through their day-to-day work responsibilities, and with the level of complication, HIPAA-related tasks can be pushed to the side at times. However, as a software solution provider for HIPAA compliance, we at Accountable know well that the cost of non-compliance is extremely high and that compliance is not something that should be pushed aside. That is why we want to help clearly lay out everything that a practice manager needs to know in order to manage HIPAA compliance on behalf of their organization.
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which regulates how healthcare providers store, record, manage and share the protected health information (PHI) of US citizens. The regulation requires healthcare organizations, like medical offices, and the business associates they work with to adhere to these standards in a complete effort to guarantee that PHI will be kept confidential.
Since PHI can appear in many forms for many reasons, it can be a challenge to follow this law in completion. That is why all organizations are required to assign a privacy officer to oversee HIPAA compliance for their particular office or company. Here is everything that you should know if you are that assigned HIPAA manager for your practice!
Who Has to Comply with HIPAA?
There are two main groups of people that are required to comply with all the aspects of HIPAA - covered entities and business associates. The first type is a covered entity (CE) which refers to any organization that directly provides treatment, payment, or operations in healthcare. The second type of entity is called business associates which are defined by the HHS as entities that perform a function or provide a service that requires them to access, use, or share protected health information (PHI) with a covered entity.
All healthcare practices are considered covered entities as they are the groups that directly collect and work with patient’s PHI each and every day. Since HIPPA was created to ensure that health information is kept secure to maintain every individual’s privacy, all aspects of practice management should be done with this in mind.
What Information is Protected?
The next key aspect to understanding HIPAA for practice managers is knowing what information you are in charge of protecting through policies and procedures. Protected Health Information, or PHI, is any medical information that can potentially identify an individual, that was created, used, or disclosed in the course of providing healthcare services, whether it was a diagnosis or treatment. PHI can include:
- The past, present, or future physical health or condition of an individual
- Healthcare services rendered to an individual
- Past, present, or future payment for the healthcare services rendered to an individual, along with any of the identifiers shown below.
The rule of thumb is that if any of the information is personally recognizable to the patient or if it was utilized or discovered during the course of a healthcare service, it is considered to be PHI.
Requirements of HIPAA Compliance
Although HIPAA compliance can seem confusing, it is actually fairly easy to break it down into a few steps that need to be followed and kept up with. As always, it is helpful to utilize a HIPAA compliance software solution, like Accountable, to keep up with compliance and have a dedicated team to assist you through each step. The main steps that need to be taken are the following:
- Assign a Privacy Officer (which is likely already been assigned to you if you’re here)
- Adopt policies and procedures as required by the law
- Conduct yearly HIPAA training for all employees
- Complete a yearly risk assessment to identify weaknesses in security
- Send out and sign Business Associate Agreements with all organizations you work with
Adopt a HIPAA Compliant Practice Management Software
As we’ve mentioned, practice managers wear many different hats throughout a typical day of work which oftentimes leads them to use a practice management software solution. These platforms integrate various solutions to all of the aspects of the job into one hub so that managing and operating a medical practice is feasible and organized. When choosing a practice management software to work with, it is crucial that you only work with a solution that is HIPAA compliant and willing to sign a business associate agreement with you.
Utilize a HIPAA Compliance Software
HIPAA compliance can seem overwhelming, but it is important to keep the perspective that it is much less inconvenient than experiencing an audit or especially a hefty fine. The Office of Civil Rights underneath Health and Human Services is charged with enforcing HIPAA and all of its requirements. This may seem insignificant, however, these fines can actually be extremely costly and devastating for organizations that experience them.
That is why many groups choose to work with a HIPAA compliance software provider where each step of the process is easily laid out plus support staff is available to help through any challenges. Plus, utilizing Accountable’s software can give you the peace of mind that your compliance is handled through the seal of compliance that we offer. You can try it for free today!