Maintaining HIPAA Compliance in your Technology Environment

Most medical offices run electronically, from patient medical forms to digital dental records, computers have a huge impact on medical practices. With the advancement of technology, it is a necessity to maintain HIPAA compliance, and often time that requires the expertise of a trusted technology provider.

What is HIPAA Compliancy and how does it affect your practice?

HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, sets the standards for the protection of patient data. Any practice that deals with Personal Health Information (PHI) must ensure that all required physical, network and process security measures are in place and followed. The major goal is to protect the privacy of individuals’ health information while allowing covered entities to adopt new technologies to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care. Below are some safeguards, policies, and processes to help keep your environment compliant and your PHI safe.

Technology Solutions for Medical Offices

Dedicated Personnel

HIPAA requires someone in your organization to be responsible for overseeing and implementing these policies. If your organization is large enough and can afford it, hire someone to be your privacy officer. If you’re a smaller office, the privacy officer role usually falls into the hands of the office manager. Regardless of who is given the job, work with an IT provider to establish a security and compliance strategy.

Security Basics

Safeguards dealing with technology are focused mainly on protecting PHI and controlled access to it. In today’s world, introducing a security appliance and antivirus for all endpoints is not the basis of a secure environment.  Security is a discipline and not a product.

Policies like Unique User Authentication is a necessary control. All users should have a unique username and password to access any network-attached devices or software. Access control is another recommended policy to employ. It allows offices to implement electronic procedures that terminate any sessions after a predetermined time of inactivity. These are only a few of the basic security policies that you’ll need to employ, so be sure to consult your technology partner on other recommendations.

Disaster Recovery

HIPAA also requires all organizations to create a disaster recovery plan and implement procedures to protect access to PHI. Medical offices are required to supply a contingency plan to ensure continued PHI availability during emergencies or disasters. It is important to proactively protect your PHI and systems against disasters of all types. Additional benefits of a disaster recovery plan include increased savings, enhanced system reliability, improved security and reduced insurance premiums.

Security Assessments

Performing a security risk assessment is a crucial step in maintaining HIPAA compliance. This isn’t a one-and-done assessment. You need to regularly perform assessments and have a corresponding risk management plan in place to fix any compliance issues or vulnerabilities you discover. You can do this on your own, but it’s advised to work with an IT provider. After the assessment, the provider can help plan and assist with any remediation.

Technology is going to continue to be a growing necessity for medical practices, so don’t take any risks when it comes to HIPAA compliance. Put proper polices in action and work closely with a technology resource to ensure your business maintains compliance.   
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