4 Key Steps Towards Achieving HIPAA Compliance
Whether because of an embarrassing affliction or an accident that leaves things lodged in unfortunate places, everyone has experienced at least one awkward trip to the doctor. But thanks to doctor-patient confidentiality, you can rest easy knowing that your most embarrassing illnesses won’t be trending on Twitter anytime soon.
And that promise of secrecy also extends to medical records. Anyone that stores or transmits patient health information (PHI) is required to comply with HIPAA legislation, which essentially means they have to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of medical records.
Aside from obvious organizations, like hospitals and dental clinics, HIPAA also concerns any company that handles PHI on behalf of others. For example, despite being a cloud provider, Red Key Solutions still needs to be HIPAA-compliant, since it works with healthcare providers.
With that in mind, here’s what you need to do to be HIPAA-compliant.
Step 1: Run a Risk Assessment
Many medical practices, as well as companies that handle PHI on their behalf, have been using digital health recording systems long before George Clooney left ER. As a result, there’s a good chance that they’ll be using systems that won’t even come close to being HIPAA-compliant.
To ensure your hardware and software solutions meet compliance regulations, your organization should conduct regular risk assessments. This involves having an IT expert examine your computers and processes, and fix any issues found.
Step 2: Implement Disaster Recovery
Unless you hate your business or like to ‘live life on the edge’ (a motto no one wants to hear from healthcare professionals), you need a good data backup and disaster recovery strategy.
Over the past few years, the healthcare industry has fallen victim to numerous cyberattacks and natural disasters. And although it’s a bitter pill to swallow, you’ll have to prepare for the possibility that one of these catastrophes can hit your business.
The best way to do just that is to routinely back up your data and set priorities for which records need to be restored first in the event of a disaster.
If you partner with a capable IT company, they should have all the backup software and failure-free data centers you need to secure your files. Just make sure to utter the words “HIPAA compliance” when you meet with them -- they’ll know what to do.
Step 3: Establish Privacy And Security Policies
Any HIPAA-compliant business must have measures to safeguard the privacy and integrity of medical records. This means installing software -- like firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and email security apps -- that prevent unauthorized access.
You’ll also want to draw up policies that clearly define who has access to which information and how they can use it. For instance, interns from your finance department probably shouldn’t have access to a patient’s medical history.
As for maintaining data integrity, you should consider implementing advanced encryption systems so no human being can read or mess with it….just like a doctor’s handwriting.
Step 4: Train Your Employees
You’ve carried out your assessment, drawn up your security and privacy policies, and met all of HIPAA’s technical requirements, but you’re not out of the woods yet! In fact, inadequately prepared employees are probably your weakest link, even if they have MDs.
Training your employees is one of the most critical elements of any cybersecurity strategy. This means comprehensive training sessions that cover what threats they should watch out for, how strong their passwords should be, and how they should handle sensitive data.
Also, don’t expect everyone to be geniuses with eidetic memories. Conduct monthly sessions to keep everyone informed about your digital security and privacy policies as well as any recent changes you might have made to them.
At Red Key Solutions, we understand that HIPAA requirements might cause headaches, groans and nausea. That’s why we work with healthcare organizations to ensure that they spend less time worrying about IT and more time focusing on what’s most important – their patients. Contact us today to see what we can do for you.