A Definition and Short Guide
Understanding what HIPAA is isn’t new to anyone who works in medicine or is involved with health information. But turning HIPAA knowledge into compliance can be a difficult thing for most businesses due to its seeming complexity.
HIPAA compliance can refer to a wide range of systems and behaviors that medical facilities put in place to make sure they adhere to these regulations as a matter of practice.
This guide will help medical leaders and business professionals refresh their understanding of HIPAA, understand the importance of HIPAA compliance, as well as understand some of the specific tools, techniques, and strategies they can put in place to maintain a high level of compliance with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) regulations.
HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is legislation signed into law that governs much of how patient data is transported and processed. HIPAA addresses a wide range of issues—but today, many medical professionals focus on two key areas:
Although HIPAA includes five separate titles, much of the focus of HIPAA compliance on a day-to-day basis centers on these two issues.
To understand what HIPAA compliance is, it’s important to understand both privacy and security requirements.
PHI refers to “Protected Health Information,” which refers to any information that can be used to identify a patient. For electronic information, it’s known as ePHI. Both of this type of information is considered protected under HIPAA—it doesn’t matter if the information is on an electronic record or written down on paper.
And what does the information contain?
Typically, it refers to identifying information such as names, addresses, social security numbers, medical records, and financial information. This is the information that any patient would want control over, especially when it comes to something as intimate as medical care.
It’s tempting to think that if your business doesn’t work in the field of medicine, that you don’t have to worry about HIPAA. But this is not the case.
You don’t have to be a medical provider for HIPAA regulations to extend to you. Billing companies, consultants, shredding companies, attorneys, accountants—all of them fall under the category of “Business Associates” who need to remain HIPAA compliant.
“Covered entities” under HIPAA rules refer to any organization that handles PHI in an electronic way. Healthcare providers and health insurance providers both fall under the category of “Covered entities.” However, they’re not the only organizations expected to live up to the standards of HIPAA compliance.
At its basic level, HIPAA compliance refers to the behaviors, habits, systems, and policies put in place by medical practitioners and executives to adhere to the regulations of HIPAA.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR)—within the Department of Health and Human Services—handles enforcement of the Privacy and Security Rules for HIPAA. A failure to comply with this office can result in punishments such as monetary penalties and fines.
Compliance with HIPAA typically falls into one of the following categories:
This constitutes an overview, or a bird’s eye “checklist” of sorts, that answers that old question—what is HIPAA compliance?
But it’s important that medical facilities also understand the specific strategies and reasons why these safeguards should be in place.
The rise of electronic systems used in the management and communication in patient data has necessitated a set of standards for how facilities handle confidential patient information.
What’s important to remember is that this applies to any professional setting in which medical information is stored, used, transmitted, or accessed. Because any such facility might fall under the purview of HIPAA law, it’s important not only to maintain the right level of awareness of HIPAA’s Privacy and Security rules, but to have the systems in place that make compliance possible in the first place.
Breaching or failing to remain compliant can lead to fines up to $100-$50,000 per incident up to $1.5 million for every security and privacy rule violation by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
HIPAA establishes a set of regulation standards that require hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities to safeguard the way they access and transfer medical information. Many of these regulations come in the form of required safeguards such as:
These specific solutions should help individual organizations and facilities better understand the level of work that can go into HIPAA compliance. But the HIPAA compliance shouldn’t be a chore, either—it should be possible to boost HIPAA compliance by using the right strategies and tools.
What is HIPAA compliance as it relates specifically to your organization? And what are the strategies organizations can use to ensure that they’re HIPAA compliant?
What is HIPAA compliance? At its core, it simply refers to the processes you undertake to stay within the confines of HIPAA.
The more you understand it, the more you’ll realize that it’s not a scary prospect to work on becoming HIPAA compliant.
Make sure that you work on your organization’s HIPAA compliance to prevent penalties and make every patient confident that you’re someone that they can trust.
For professional help on becoming HIPAA compliant visit our main website at HAOA.org