The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in the U.S. in 1996 when it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It created new protections for patient health information. It also created – in the case of all healthcare providers, insurance companies and their business associates – a potential for overburdening with policies and the risk of fines and penalties associated with HIPAA compliance.
Even the initial policy creation for HIPAA compliance can be costly and time-consuming. For those charged with protecting private health information, there are steps that can be put into place to mitigate some of the burden of protection and minimize the risk of failing to meet HIPAA compliance requirements.
Budget for ongoing maintenance. Some organizations make the mistake of budgeting enough for initial policy set-up, but neglect to set aside enough funds for ongoing maintenance and technical support for compliance. The regulations associated with private health information change often, and enterprises must plan for continual updating and training.
Prioritize staff training. Enterprises often invest in software designed specifically to manage HIPAA compliance, but it’s also a good idea to invest heavily in staff training. It’s critical to continually prioritize training for staff who handle patient records in ways that are applicable for their roles. It’s also important that staff know the steps to take if there’s an incident related to HIPAA.
Staff training materials should always be presented in easy to understand terms. Too often, staff are presented with policies in language that only an attorney can interpret, making it challenging for employees to follow policy effectively.
Consider a cloud provider. In many cases, the best way to handle HIPAA compliance is to outsource it to a cloud provider who specializes in the policies and security necessary to protect private health information. This may be a cost-effective solution for enterprises that want to allow their employees to focus on core business functions, rather than HIPAA policy.
Say “no” to on-site data. With data on your site, you could lose millions of dollars if employees walk out the door with physical devices that host confidential or sensitive data. With data on physical laptops and other devices, your risk for data loss – and therefore financial and reputational loss – is huge. With Effortless, you don’t have on-site data, or even laptops or computers if you’ve replaced them with Zero Clients. We eliminate the fear of employees walking out with sensitive data by eliminating the physical devices from your business equation.
Ultimately, keep three steps in mind when setting up HIPAA compliance policy.
It doesn’t matter what size the organization, there are some key components of any compliance program:
- Identify the information being handled, in what ways it is being used and the rules that apply to that information.
- Take the appropriate steps to protect that information, both with internal measures and those of third-party business partners.
- Ensure those steps are being appropriately applied, through employee training, regular reviews and necessary adjustments to policy.
After your business has its HIPAA policy in place, there are still common ways to trip up and potentially violate compliance rules. The top five most common violations of HIPAA include:
- lost and stolen devices
- improper disposal
- lack of training
- unsecured records
Luckily, there are solutions to prevent those types of violations. Sonya Meline, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Effortless, suggests looking at solutions in four EASY steps:
E: Education is key for preventing HIPAA violation. Attend free webinars on YouTube, check out helpful sites including HHS.gov and CMS.gov, and ensure you have annual HIPAA training scheduled.
A: Analyze where your organization stands on a regular basis. Introduce a HIPAA report card, and perform on-site IT audit and risk assessments. (Third parties can help here.)
S: Secure (protected health information) PHI by saying “No” to thumb drives and CDs and using secure clouds.
Y: You can take responsibility for ensuring all the aspects of your HIPAA policy are in place and bringing the company together to ensure compliance.
HIPAA compliance doesn’t have to be a burden. To discuss strategies for policy implementation and the benefits of cloud, contact us at Effortless Office.