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3 insider tips about HIPAA compliance when working from home

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a U.S. federal legislation that dictates and enforces data security and privacy rules for safeguarding personal medical information. Although HIPAA started in 1996, it has gained prominence over the past few years due to the prevalence of cybercrimes targeting the healthcare sector. According to the 2019 State of Healthcare Report, the medical industry ranks as the seventh most targeted commercial industry.

An overview of HIPAA

Title II of the HIPAA encourages the use of electronic data systems in the healthcare industry and insists on data privacy and security. HIPAA has evolved over the years and now includes five main elements.

  • The Privacy Rule and PHI: Describes the privacy standards for safeguarding protected health information (PHI), covering 18 specific identifiers of patients’ personal data.
  • HIPAA Enforcement Rule: Empowers the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and the Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct compliance audits and impose financial penalties on non-compliant organizations.
  • HITECH Act: Defines security standards for “meaningful use” of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and financial penalties for HIPAA violations.
  • Breach Notification Rule: Demands organizations to report all data breaches involving more than 500 records to the OCR and those affected by such incidents.
  • HIPAA Omnibus Rule: Finalized in 2012, the omnibus rule strengthens HIPAA by extending and modifying data security and privacy rules to include the business associates of covered entities and confidentiality in data sharing.

What does HIPAA compliance mean?

Complying with HIPAA boils down to putting in place the necessary technical, physical, and administrative measures to protect medical information from unwarranted access, disclosure, or use. Non-compliance and violation penalties depend on the level of negligence; fines can range anywhere from $100 to $50,000 per exposed record or violation, with possible criminal charges.

If your company deals with EHRs and other medical records or associates with a third-party organization involved in handling personal medical data, you simply can’t ignore HIPAA. As a co-managed IT provider, here are our top three insider tips for HIPAA compliance:

1. Implement security safeguards

Protect ePHI and EHRs like any other corporate data, but with a strong focus on privacy, confidentiality, and access control. Combine various physical and technical data security techniques such as strict and limited authentication, data encryption, risk analysis, vulnerability scanning, and firewall security.

2. Train your employees

According to various reports, insider threat is the leading cause of data breaches in the healthcare sector. In most cases, data leaks and theft result from avoidable human error, negligence, and critical oversights. The only way of eliminating internal risks is to bring all employees on board with HIPAA guidelines through regular training and assessments.

Additionally, ensure that every third-party associated with your business also observes HIPAA guidelines and recommendations.

3. Create an incident response plan

HIPAA requires every organization to prepare for a data breach incident by invoking an immediate response plan. A response strategy should include guidelines for reporting, containing, and eradicating the threat, as well as a roadmap to full recovery. A rapid incident response plan helps minimize the potential impact of a data breach and waives some HIPAA penalties.

Working with a co-managed IT partner toward HIPAA compliance

For the most part, complying with HIPAA involves putting up technical cybersecurity measures, such as firewalls, access monitors, and intruder detection systems. And that’s where you might need help from a co-managed IT provider. Working with an expert gives you access to valuable insights, tools, and knowledge to build a robust cybersecurity framework and work culture that meets HIPAA standards.

At KME Systems, we care about legal and industrial security standards because we understand why they are necessary and the dire consequence of non-compliance. We are a co-managed IT service provider that can help your business attain and maintain full compliance with HIPAA and any other mandatory regulations. Get in touch with us and start your compliance journey on the right foot.