What Does It Mean to Be HIPAA Compliant?
The IT services provider journey involves navigating various considerations, particularly when dealing with industries that adhere to strict compliance regulations. Among these industries are healthcare and finance, where the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) plays a crucial role.
In this guide, we uncover the intricacies of what it truly means to be HIPAA compliant and how it directly impacts IT professionals.
Understanding the Foundations of HIPAA
HIPAA, not to be confused with HIPPA, stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Enacted on August 21, 1996, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, its initial focus was on allowing workers to retain their employer-paid insurance post-employment.
However, it expanded its scope to include vital regulations safeguarding healthcare patient privacy. Patient information, often referred to as protected health information (PHI), takes various forms, such as ePHI (electronic protected health information) or IIHI (individually identifiable health information).
The scope of HIPAA extends to covered entities and business associates. Managed IT professionals engaged in creating, maintaining, transmitting or receiving ePHI or PHI for a covered entity or another business associate are legally bound by HIPAA regulations. This includes compliance with the Omnibus Rule of 2013, subjecting IT professionals to the same liabilities and penalties as the covered entities.
To determine whether your business needs to be HIPAA compliant, ask yourself if you work for any covered entity or business associate. If the answer is yes, HIPAA compliance is likely a necessity for your business.
Signing a business associate agreement is a part of the process but does not automatically ensure compliance.
Key Requirements to Become HIPAA Compliant
1. Security Risk Assessment
To kick off the journey towards HIPAA compliance, businesses must conduct a comprehensive security risk assessment. Even if direct access to ePHI is limited, having administrative or remote access to a client’s network qualifies as having access to sensitive data.
2. Risk Mitigation Plan
Based on the findings of the security risk assessment, a risk mitigation plan is crucial. This plan addresses and mitigates issues identified during the assessment, ensuring a proactive approach to security.
3. Safeguards Implementation
HIPAA compliance involves meticulous adherence to safeguards outlined in the Security Rule. This rule is divided into administrative safeguards, physical safeguards and technical safeguards.
- Administrative safeguards cover areas such as security management, risk analysis and workforce security. These safeguards ensure the overall governance of security processes.
- Physical safeguards focus on facility access controls and device and media controls. These safeguards emphasize the physical protection of PHI.
- Technical safeguards encompass access control, encryption and audit controls. They are essential for protecting electronic PHI.
4. Documentation Prioritization
Compliance hinges significantly on thorough documentation and adherence to policies and procedures. Entities must not only have policies in place but also follow them consistently.
The Complexity of Administrative Safeguards
Administrative safeguards may seem daunting, but they are designed to cover all types of HIPAA entities. Some elements may not directly apply to IT professionals, but all are essential to address in policies and procedures.
HIPAA Is a Continuous Journey
As an IT professional, being HIPAA compliant involves more than just satisfying the elements of the Security Rule. It requires ongoing commitment, comprehensive policies and procedures, in-depth knowledge of HIPAA’s implications for your business, and a cultural emphasis on compliance.
Prioritizing documentation and maintaining a thorough training program are crucial components of this journey.
Navigating through HIPAA’s complexities may seem challenging, but it presents an opportunity to differentiate yourself in the IT industry. While the effort required is significant, the potential benefits, including safeguarding your clients and your reputation, make it a worthy endeavor.
Want to cut through the clutter and better understand HIPAA? We have a free HIPAA compliance checklist just for you.
Wrapping Up: What It Means To Achieve HIPAA Compliance
Being HIPAA compliant as an IT professional means:
- Satisfying the elements of the Security Rule.
- Having comprehensive policies and procedures and adhering to them consistently.
- Possessing an in-depth knowledge of HIPAA and its implications for your business.
- Establishing a thorough training program and making compliance a cultural priority.
HIPAA is an ever-changing piece of legislation that requires continuous dedication and adaptation. Despite its challenges, mastering the intricacies of HIPAA can set you apart in the competitive IT industry, making the effort well worth the rewards.If you have any questions about HIPAA compliance, contact us or book a meeting. We’re happy to help.