HIPAA Basics for Providers: Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules

Patient Health Records folder with Confidential and HIPAA stamps
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a law that ensures the protection of patient data. Institutions that use patient information must ensure complete protection of medical information about a patient. The HIPAA is placed to ensure complete data privacy; the act enforces companies to take safety measures for protected health information (PHI) and abide by  HIPAA compliance.

HIPAA compliance is for every institution that provides treatment including payments and performing different functions associated with healthcare. It includes businesses directly involved in dealing with patient information including the payments mentioned in bookkeeping, patient history, and the treatment information which all must be under HIPAA compliance.

HIPAA Privacy and Security

HIPAA, known as the Standards for Privacy for Individually Identifiable Health Information, is used to establish national standards for the protection of certain health information. Similarly, the Security Rule is used to maintain a specific set of standards associated with health information transferred in electronic form. The rule addresses the technical and non-technical safeguards that institutions must put in place to secure all electronic information about a patient.

The Office of the Civil Rights within HHS is responsible to ensure data protection of a medical organization. The OCR officer enforces institutions to comply with the Privacy and Security Rules with voluntary compliance including civil monetary penalties.

Why do Companies Need HIPAA Compliance?

Health care institutions and other companies working with Protected Health Information usually move their database from a traditional system to an online-computerized system. An online system includes a computerized physician order entity (CPOE), an electronic health record or EHR, laboratory systems, radiology, and pharmacy.

Today, with so many data breaches by hackers worldwide, compliance with HIPAA is a necessity. Medical information is crucial for not just hospitals and laboratories but patient information is also useful for health insurance companies. These companies pay for treatments based on the health plan a patient has opted for. Self-service applications and healthcare management companies have to adhere to the HIPAA law; a non-compliance with the act would lead to penalties and hefty fines for any kind of data breach.

The Security Rule under the HIPAA policy is used to protect every piece of information about a patient around the U.S. The Security Rule is effective in protecting patient data while allowing companies to use new and improved technologies for improving the efficiency of patient treatment. The Security Rule is very flexible which allows an institution or a business to implement different procedures, technologies, and policies to ensure compliance with The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

HIPAA Compliance with Physical, Technical Safeguards and Policies

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has specific requirements about HIPAA compliance with physical and technical aspects for companies responsible for holding and maintaining sensitive patient information. Some of the physical safeguards associated with compliance with HIPAA are:

  • Limited control in handling patient information with authorized access to concerned personnel only
  • The organization must put strict policies in place to control access to workstations and other computerized information
  • Transferring, disposing, re-using electronic information and removing any protected health information is restricted
  • Must use unique user IDS, with access codes for emergency access; the database and computers must have an automatic log off
  • Electronic devices must have effective encryption and decryption systems installed
  • Monitoring systems for recording activity on hardware and software are mandatory
  • Auditing reports and tackling logs of every computer system within the institution

Data Protection for Healthcare Institutions and HIPAA

Healthcare organizations are required to undertake strict safety measures to ensure data security for every patient. Institutions today uses high-quality healthcare management systems that meet the demand to meet all security measures put forward by The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The rules enforce healthcare organizations to ensure:

  • Availability and security of the protected health information (PHI) maintains the trust of patients and health care professionals
  • Must maintain HIPAA regulations associated with access, integrity controls, and audits
  • Secure data transmissions and device security must be ensured
  • Maintain greater control and visibility of sensitive data in the organization
  • Must guarantee to offer the best security measures to prevent a data breach
  • Any structured or unstructured data including emails, files, reports, and scans must be protected from cyber attacks
  • If sharing data with another organization is necessary for any reason, both parties must ensure proper security measures before transferring protected patient information

 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is useful in maintaining a secure way to handle crucial patient information; in case of a data breach by internal or external sources, the organization is investigated thoroughly to protect patient information.

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