Legal issues can be devastating for many businesses but imagine if your business ended up suffering for something that could have been easily avoided. HIPAA compliance is mandatory for ALL healthcare businesses and their associates, but the rules can often be confusing. While the road to complete HIPAA compliance can be long, and in some cases costly, it is a small price to pay in comparison to the costs incurred for violating HIPAA laws – whether those violations were intentional or not.
Whether you are just starting out on your HIPAA compliance journey or are already well on the road to complete compliance, below are 5 easy things your organization should be doing to ensure you are consistently proactive in your HIPAA compliance and protect your organization from the steep costs – both financial and otherwise – involved with violating HIPAA laws.
Assign a HIPAA Privacy and Security Officer
Organization is key, so designating a specific individual to be responsible for the development and implementation of your HIPAA compliance program is necessary. The assigned officer should have adequate privacy or security officer training to guarantee they have the skills needed to fulfill the role as well as the authority to act when and where necessary. It is also essential that they have the resources at hand to do the job efficiently and effectively, so your organization remains protected.
Develop and administer HIPAA policies and procedures
Without policies and procedures in place, your employees would essentially be flying blind when it comes to their behaviors, actions, and responses in the workplace. So, just like you have most probably stipulated policies and procedures around other workplace operations, you will need to provide your employees with clear and concise directives and expectations on activities like how to handle medical record amendment requests from patients, what to do in the event of a system breach, or how to adequately protect their login data.
In the eyes of the law, failure to make such directives clear and accessible to employees or failure to sufficiently enforce existing policies and procedures not only leaves your organization exposed to data breaches but also increases your accountability in the event of a HIPAA violation – either intentional or unintentional.
Ensure ALL employees have regular and comprehensive HIPAA training
Human error is a shockingly large contributor to most data breaches. Although we are unable to remove the human factor in our business operations, we can reduce the likelihood of human error contributing to situations that could negatively impact our businesses. The key here is training.
With the right, and regular, training, you can rest assured that your employees are knowledgeable and prepared for any event that may cross their path. Everyone on your workforce should at the very least undergo general HIPAA training with employees from specific departments receiving more comprehensive training for specific policies that are applicable to them.
Evaluate your current level of HIPAA compliance by conducting a gap analysis and security risk analysis (SRA)
An effective analysis of current protocols and protections is the best way to leverage your current processes to become more HIPAA compliant faster. Good business practices often provide the steady framework needed to build stronger and more impenetrable policies and procedures. So, by completing a thorough analysis of your organization’s current state, you can achieve a comprehensive overview of potential gaps and security risks within your organization that need to be patched in order to mitigate further risks and increase you level of compliance.
Set up business associate agreements (BAA) with third-party contractors and vendors
BAAs are a necessity in HIPAA compliance, so you definitely should have them. A BAA is an agreement which extends to any individuals, groups, or organizations which you may employ, and who may, in some way, have access to patients’ Protected Health Information (PHI). The BAA provides clear directives about the access and use of PHI to ensure it remains secure as outlined by the HIPAA regulations. In this way, the BAA ensures that levels of responsibility are clearly defined and acknowledged by all parties involved. Whether they be a short-term consultant who performs hospital utilization reviews or your managed service provider, responsibility must be made clear.
Compliance or Court: It’s your choice
These are really the only two paths businesses can travel down, and, in the long run, it makes much more sense to choose the compliance path from the get-go. So, if compliance is the path you’ve chosen or are on already, contact the HIPAA verified team at Merit Technologies today to find out how they can make your organization more HIPAA compliant.