Sensitive patient health information is extremely valuable to hackers, causing the frequency and severity of these kinds of breaches to continually increase. In fact, 142 healthcare data breaches exposed over 3.15 million patient records during the second quarter of 2018. As these data breaches continue to grow over the years, the need of medical practices to ensure proper protection and handling of such personal information
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITRUST) legislation applies HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) to a variety of organizations. Through HIPAA’s growth of reaching a larger community, HIPAA compliance was made a nearly-universal legislation by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). Whether you are a healthcare facility or another type of service platform, you should know how best to handle HIPAA compliance rules and regulations.
HIPAA in Brief
During 1996, Congress enacted HIPAA to protect the private data and information within the healthcare system – especially when individuals change jobs. In 2003, the Privacy Rule was passed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Privacy Rule stated that Protected Health Information (PHI) as collected and stored data by covered entities, which pertains to healthcare provision, current health status, and any healthcare payments linked to individuals.
The HIPAA Security Rule was revised in 2005 to place a higher significance on electronically-stored PHI (ePHI). This new update added three new sections of compliance. Two of these added rules had a direct effect on the IT departments of healthcare organizations.
- Procedures and policies – Known as administrative safeguards, these show further compliance
- Physical safeguards – This may include limiting or restricting access to data storage areas
- Technical safeguards – such as incorporating communications that transmit PHI electronically via open networks
Who Should Be HIPAA-Compliant?
Individuals who partake in handling, transferring, or even sniffing at PHI and ePHI are required to meet all HIPAA compliance standards. Covered entities, including healthcare clearinghouses and health plans, also need to ensure compliance. Even healthcare professionals, such as nurses and doctors, need to be complaint since they typically work in IT-regulated healthcare environments.
Also Read: Top 5 Components of HIPAA Privacy Rule
Nevertheless, HITECH casts a wide net by nurturing the idea of “business associates”- essentially covering all individuals or entities that use protected health data and information when providing their services.
If you run an audit firm that completes work on behalf of individuals seeking HIPAA-compliance, you must also be compliant to the regulations outlined by HIPAA. Compliance is especially important for providers of SaaS software. Likewise, any platforms that are meant to manage human resources must ensure compliance because of the high involvement with the organization’s healthcare program.
Consequences of HIPAA Violations
The Department of Health and Human Services runs the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). This body’s mandate is to implement and oversee these compliance rules within an organization. Even though the Department restructured the Enforcement Rule from 1996 to 2009, HITECH was then able to build up HIPAA and combine the outlined regulations. This was done through the Omnibus Act. HIPAA violations should not be taken lightly. Failing to comply may lead to serious civil penalties, including incarceration.
Why Continuous Monitoring is Needed
HIPAA requires that all organizations partake in a risk assessment, as well as have a continuous risk analysis process in place. In addition, the Administrative Safeguards provisions also state that all institutions must undergo risk assessment and analysis. This will help to strengthen security within an organization and should serve as a core component of their security and risk management framework.
The management and risk analysis provisions stipulated by the Security Rule are typically addressed separately. By helping in the determination of appropriate security measures for covered entities, risk analysis inherently affects the use of all safeguards contained within the Security Rule.
Risk analysis ought to be an ongoing process, which ensures that a covered institution reviews its record regularly to detect security incidents besides tracking access to ePHI. Keep in mind that a point-in-time risk evaluation won’t guarantee the protection of the data environment. Malicious attackers always fine-tune their attack methods; therefore, you should always watch out for external threats.
Enabling Risk Management Through an Assertive Compliance Program
Risk management encompasses many factors to a cyber security framework. Typically, controls become outdated within a short time frame. Apart from previously unknown malware and vulnerabilities, new threats constantly arise. Continuous monitoring helps watch for risks that threaten sensitive data. Nonetheless, this is only the initial step towards risk management.
Continuous compliance necessitates the need to address risks as soon as they emerge. Covered entities must therefore implement procedures and policies for ensuring that ePHI isn’t improperly destroyed or damaged.
Integrating Continuous Audits into HIPAA Risk Management
A security-first approach towards cyber security compliance not only monitors risks but also mitigates them as soon as they arise. This approach helps maintain confidentiality, accessibility, and data integrity. In addition, it aids in maintaining the HIPAA compliance that is needed to verify all actions. The use of automated tools helps to continuously monitor sensitive is a necessary component for achieving compliance.
By maintaining HIPAA compliance and even considering working with HITRUST certified vendors, sensitive patient information is protected at a higher standard, ensuring a safe and healing healthcare system.
Ken Lynch is an enterprise software startup veteran, who has always been fascinated about what drives workers to work and how to make work more engaging. Ken founded Reciprocity to pursue just that. He has propelled Reciprocity’s success with this mission-based goal of engaging employees with the governance, risk, and compliance goals of their company in order to create more socially minded corporate citizens. Ken earned his BS in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from MIT. Learn more at ReciprocityLabs.com.