6 top HIPAA compliance myths and the truth

One of the biggest potential challenges when it comes to medical IT is HIPAA compliance. It’s true that HIPAA is a serious matter that you must handle with care. But don’t let concerns about HIPAA scare you away.

Here are 6 common HIPAA myths and the truth behind them.

Myth: You only have to think about it once

It would be nice if HIPAA was something you only had to deal with once. But it is not something you can put into place once and then forget about it.

In truth, HIPAA is an ongoing responsibility and companies need to continually monitor their own compliance. As with most types of issues that require attention and motivation, people may start taking shortcuts over time. Make sure your company has a well-defined and well-funded plan to address HIPAA compliance.

Myth: HIPAA violations only affect medical information

The entire purpose of HIPAA is supposed to be protecting the privacy of individual health data. But according to an article in CIO magazine, violations often reflect other security risks as well. Many companies have to outsource their IT and records management functions and not all companies are equally diligent.

A company that violates HIPAA regulations is also more likely to put other sensitive data at risk as well. Corporate security breaches, whether of HIPAA information or credit data, can result in significant fines and public relations nightmares. Read here to learn more about why you need a disaster recovery plan.

Myth: You don’t have to worry about enforcement

There’s more than one government agency in charge of enforcing HIPAA compliance. Several government agencies are obligated to ensure that companies are compliant with the law. Some of the government offices who check to make sure you’re compliant with HIPAA include the following:

  • Office for Civil Rights
  • Department of Justice
  • State and federal attorneys general
  • Federal Trade Commission

You don’t need to be terrified of the government’s involvement, but you also can’t take for granted that it will be okay at any point to take security management less seriously. If you need some outside help setting up a compliant system consider an expert IT consultant.

Myth: Only physical records and personal contacts matter

It’s true that you have to be mindful of privacy when discussing patient medical records. It’s also true that you have to protect the security of physical records. But even cloud-based storage systems need to be compliant with HIPAA regulation.

Related: HIPAA compliance in the cloud? 3 things you need to know.

Myth: Some people don’t have to worry about compliance

Everyone who comes into contact with medical records is responsible for maintaining their privacy. Some people may have the misconception that only the initial healthcare provider has to maintain the patient’s privacy. But in today’s healthcare climate, records can pass through many sets of hands.

According to Forbes, each person who has contact with patient records is responsible for keeping them private, including subcontractors, data centers, and other third parties. That also includes claims processors, data entry, utilization review, and practice managers, to name just a few.

Myth: Your data is too insignificant to matter

Some companies think that they’re too small to matter. They mistakenly think that hackers are only concerned with large companies or personal credit card information.

According to the blog Security Metrics, personal health information is much more valuable than credit card information. The former collects a couple hundred dollars for each health record, while credit card numbers only go for a dollar or two. Fortunately, there are best practices you can follow to protect your data,  including updating software and improving staff training.

Being HIPAA compliant isn’t optional and it matters to every healthcare business. But with careful attention and good network security, you can protect both your patients and your business.

HIPAA security rule: Your guide to technical safeguards

Healthcare data breaches are becoming increasingly common. There were more than 477 incidents in 2017 — up from 450 in 2016. If you run a medical organization, incorporating a comprehensive data security policy into your business is imperative. Otherwise, you could expose confidential patient data to cybercriminals and receive expensive fines from the government.

HIPAA technical safeguards are a series of security standards that protect patient data. But what are they? And how can they protect your patients? Read on to find out.

1. Improve your access control requirements

HIPAA technical safeguards state that you should incorporate access control requirements into your data security policy. This way, you can find out who is accessing your health data and from where — and understand the ramifications if the wrong person obtains sensitive patient information.

The HIPAA access control technical safeguard standard has four implementation specifications:

  • Unique user identification: Users who have access to patient data should have a unique name or tracking number.
  • Emergency access procedure: You need to implement rules for users who access patient data in an emergency.
  • Automatic logoff: You should activate an automatic logoff on your computer systems after a period of inactivity.
  • Encryption and decryption: You should encrypt and decrypt confidential patient data where necessary.

“For compliance with this technical safeguard standard, a covered entity is required to implement technical policies and procedures for electronic information systems that maintain electronic protected health information, allowing access only to those persons or software programs that have been granted access rights,” says HIPAA.

2. Improve the integrity of patient information

This HIPAA technical safeguard preserves the integrity of patient information. In short, you will need to protect data from “improper alteration or destruction.”

“A covered entity must ensure that its electronic protected health information, as well as other critical electronic business information, has not been altered or destroyed without its knowledge and approval,” says HIPAA.

You can do this by implementing access controls and storing data in a secure virtual space. Alternatively, a managed service provider can customize a security solution that improves threat management and network monitoring in your healthcare organization. Click here to find out more.

Related Content: HIPAA compliance in the cloud? 3 things you need to know.

3. Enhance secure data transmission

The HIPAA transmission security technical safeguard standard protects patient information over electronic communication networks.

“In simplest terms, a covered entity must safeguard its electronic networks to ensure the availability and integrity of its electronic protected health information,” notes HIPAA.

Just like the access control technical safeguard, you need to prevent unauthorized access to the health data stored on your computer systems. You can do this with an effective password management system.

Related Content: 3 healthcare technologies that will revolutionize the patient experience

4. Verify the people who use your computer systems

This HIPAA technical safeguard specifies that you verify a person or entity who has access to health information on your computer systems. Using the latest software can help you achieve this. Some programs have multiple levels of security to check a user’s credentials before they access sensitive data.

“This standard requires more than just password management and includes maintaining audit trails so that the covered entity can authenticate who or what entity is creating, reading, altering, destroying, or transmitting electronic protected health information,” says HIPAA.

Are you HIPAA compliant? If you’re not, you could face expensive fines and lose the trust of your patients. Follow the four tips on this list and adhere to HIPAA’s series of technical safeguards.

Want to keep reading? Check out the following articles:

HIPAA Security Rule: Your Guide to Administrative Safeguards

3 steps to HIPAA security rule compliance for your business