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How a HIPAA Security Assessment Can Keep You Compliant

New technology has its pros and cons when it comes to the healthcare industry. It has enabled efficiency and advancement, but it has also opened more doors for unauthorized users and malicious hackers to access sensitive patient data. Because of this, safeguarding protected health information (PHI) has become increasingly important – so much so that compliancy initiatives like HIPAA were born. According to the CDC, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a law that sets national standards regarding the protection of private patient health information. Read on to discover who this statute affects, the steps you need to take to become compliant, and how to maintain compliance through a HIPAA security assessment.

Who Needs to be HIPAA Compliant?

There are two types of organizations that must maintain HIPAA compliance: Covered entities and business associates, both of which are defined below.

Covered Entities

The term “Covered Entities” in this context refers to any organization that creates, collects, or transmits PHI electronically (such as healthcare providers, health insurance providers, and health care clearinghouses).

Business Associates

“Business Associates” are defined by the HIPAA regulation as any organization that transmits, manages, or encounters PHI in any way throughout the time it is contracted to perform on a covered entity’s behalf. Some examples of these businesses include:

  • Third-party consultants
  • EHR platforms
  • Shredding companies
  • Accountants
  • Lawyers
  • IT Providers

So, what does this mean for your business?

If your industry is one that requires HIPAA compliance, then you need to take the time to evaluate how your own enterprise handles the PHI that it comes into contact with, along with the current compliance protocols that you’ve implemented (or lack thereof) to protect sensitive patient data. Simple, right?

Becoming Compliant

There are no shortcuts when it comes to achieving HIPAA compliance. The goal of this statute is to implement controls and safeguards to ensure the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of protected health information. In order to fully understand the policies and procedures of this Act, you should refer directly to the full text from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights regarding HIPAA itself. The idea of muddling through a 115-page booklet about patient privacy can be quite daunting, especially given the severity of the penalties for HIPAA violations and the consequences of a breach of PHI. If your business wants to begin providing services or products to the healthcare industry, you need to lay out a basic compliance checklist that outlines all provisions of the HIPAA Privacy, Security, Omnibus, and Breach Notification Rules. By doing this, you can more accurately gauge the effectiveness of your procedures, policies, and safeguards that you want to implement.

Becoming compliant doesn’t sound so simple anymore, does it?

Because compliance is required by law for certain businesses and industries, it is strongly recommended that you work with a third-party managed service provider (MSP) when you become compliant to confirm that your practices and policies are aligned with HIPAA standards. Certain assessments, like the HIPAA security assessment, can help to reassure you that you have employed all of the necessary measures to ensure that any PHI you encounter is properly secured.

Maintaining Compliance

HIPAA compliance is an ongoing process. This means that you must continually make sure that your safeguards remain in place and that your personnel do not forget their responsibilities regarding PHI and HIPAA. Part of this is performing a regular HIPAA security assessment and other risk analyses to detect any new vulnerabilities so that the risk can be proactively managed until it reaches an acceptable level. Some MSPs offer annual risk assessment audits to keep your compliance in check and to provide you with documentation about your efforts in the event of an audit or should a complaint be filed.

Here at Contigo, we know getting HIPAA compliant and keeping it that way are two very hard-to-handle tasks. Let us tackle your compliance issues through our annual risk assessment audits, HIPAA professional advisory services, and HIPAA Security Rule and Privacy Rule alignment solutions. Contact us to get help with completing your compliancy initiative today.

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