Data has quickly become one of the world’s most valuable resources. And, while there may be some data we don’t mind sharing – like our location to make sure we get local results on Google when we search for restaurants in our area. There are other types of data that we don’t want others to know – our protected health information (PHI) for example. Health organizations that store, manage, and transmit data and PHI have an obligation to keep it secure, but HIPAA compliance can be tricky business.
But with all the rules and regulations organizations have to adhere to, it’s a wonder that health organizations have any time left to take care of their patients or clients. In fact, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as many as 70% of healthcare providers aren’t HIPAA compliant. Non-compliance can lead to huge financial penalties and even jail time, so it is smart to do what you can to make sure your organization complies in every way possible. So, how can you make sure HIPAA compliance is achieved in your organization?
Well, that’s easy – partner with a HIPAA-verified Managed Service Provider (MSP).
What can a HIPAA-verified MSP do to help you become HIPAA compliant?
While there are many reasons a healthcare organization may be non-compliant, one of the primary reasons has to do with security protocols. Part of becoming HIPAA compliant is carrying out regular risk assessmentswhich are designed to expose vulnerabilities in your systems – vulnerabilities such as missing or weak encryption of data, poor disaster recovery plans and strategies, and inadequate patch management to name a few. But often an even bigger problem stems from a lack of security protocols that ensure information system activities are updated regularly.
Imagine this: you have recently had to let an employee go because of workplace misconduct. The employee in question then becomes disgruntled because they feel they were wrongly dismissed. When you let the employee go, Human Resources were informed as was the employee’s department, but that’s where the communication and action trail on your end stopped. Two weeks later, the angry employee discovers that their login details for the organization’s main system still function (because no action was taken to block the user), and they can still access all the PHI your organization has in its possession. Because you failed to take the necessary action to disallow a former employee from continued access to PHI, you are now non-compliant and open to the repercussions.
The above is a terrible scenario for both your organization and the patients who have entrusted you with their sensitive data, but with a HIPAA-verified MSP, it could all be avoided.
A HIPAA-verified MSP can ensure your organization, and the in-house IT department if there is one, remains HIPAA compliant by:
- Conducting HIPAA Security Risk Assessments
- Encrypting all PHI and stored data
- Implementing backup and disaster recovery plans to keep data secure
- Identifying system vulnerabilities and providing high quality solutions
- Providing the necessary technology to ensure data security
- Providing services such as Remote Monitoring Management (RMM), cloud-to-cloud backup, and authentication and access management
- Providing Compliance-as-a-service (CaaS)
HIPAA-verified MSPs: The Consultants and Stakeholders your organization needs
Whether you have an in-house IT department or not, it is always a good idea to partner with an MSP. Why?
An MSP is a team of experts who are dedicated to remotely monitoring and handling your IT systems. While having an in-house IT department is a great start to getting the most out of your IT performance and ensuring your organization is on the road to HIPAA compliance, there is often a limit to the knowledge and expertise of your hired employees. With an MSP, however, you get a complete team of industry specialists for one low monthly rate. They can complement your current IT team by offering consulting services or take care of all your IT needs if you don’t.
The main point is, though, that because they are Business Associates, they have a vested interest in guaranteeing that protocols and systems are functional and being followed. As part of your organization’s infrastructure, they are just as liable as your organization is should a breach occur, meaning you can be assured that your HIPAA compliance will be taken seriously and evaluated thoroughly.
Be careful, though – not every MSP is HIPAA verified!
It’s a jungle out there – a jungle of compliance laws that most Business Associates and subcontractors are unaware of and have no idea who they apply to according to research into HIPAA compliance. That’s over two million opportunities for your patient’s PHI and your business to be put at risk – so be careful! Partnering with the wrong MSP could be just as damaging as partnering with no MSP, so make sure you do your homework and ask the right questions.
Some questions that any HIPAA-verified MSP should easily be able to answer are:
- Have you previously worked with HIPAA compliant clients?
- What environmental controls do they follow to guarantee security?
- What are their company policies for employees? E.g., if an employee is no longer with the company, or if they lose a device.
- What technologies do they use?
- How do they intend to continuously monitor your system?
Partner with a HIPAA-verified MSP – it’s the smart decision
You may think you can become HIPAA compliant alone, and perhaps you can. But with a HIPAA-verified MSP, you can get reach HIPAA compliance faster, more easily, and more absolutely, so there’s really no need to go it alone.
If complete HIPAA compliance is what you have been looking for, call the team at Merit Technologies – your HIPAA-verified MSP Partner.