HIPAA is a legal act that establishes the rules for patient information protection. It makes it possible for healthcare patients to control their sensitive information and rely on organizations, which are required to implement standardized patient privacy and security structures. But, even though it has been around for quite a while, its rules, requirements, and security standards aren’t something many people are familiar with. Continue reading this page and get all of the information on HIPAA compliance rules, violation penalties, and other important details in the HIPAA checklist.
The HIPAA Privacy and HIPAA Security Rules
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was drafted first and foremost to modernize the way personally identifiable healthcare information should be electronically transmitted, maintained, and secured. It was passed in 1996 and has since been a critical standard of every healthcare compliance audit checklist. As a technology-neutral law, HIPAA has aged well during its existence and has remained unaltered despite the rapid advancements brought by the Internet in the past two decades. In its core, HIPAA is a legal act comprised out of rules, which set the primary compliance requirements. The two most important rules included in this act are the HIPAA Security Rule and Privacy Rule.
What is the HIPAA Security Rule?
The HIPAA Security Rule was first introduced in 1998 and has gone through several amendments since it was first approved. When it was first drafted, modern smartphones weren’t yet on the market, and the first social media platforms were just coming up on the internet. With that in mind, it’s understandable that the HIPAA risk assessment checklist was updated significantly to stay up to date with the ever-evolving society. Despite that, most of the original language used in the first HIPAA Security Rule has stayed pretty much the same over the years.
What is the HIPAA Privacy Rule?
The Privacy Rule was first enacted in 2003. Unlike the HIPAA Security Rule, which sets the basic security standards, the Privacy Rule sets specific limits regarding the use of sensitive patient information without the authorization by the patient. The Privacy Rule is an essential part of HIPAA, as one of its main purposes is to guarantee the patients the right to obtain a copy of their health records and request any needed corrections. With over 400 pages on the Federal Registry, it ranks highly on the HIPAA risk assessment checklist.
Whom Does HIPAA Apply to?
HIPAA applies to all healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare information centers if those organizations send health information electronically with transactions. To have a complete understanding of everyone and everything included in these three categories, let’s examine each of them in more detail:
- Healthcare Providers – Hospitals, clinics, doctors, dentists, nursing homes, pharmacies, psychologists, and chiropractors.
- Health Plans – HMO’s, company health plans, government programs (i.e., Medicare, Medicaid), health insurance, and veteran’s health programs.
- Healthcare Information Centers – entities that process non-standard health information for healthcare organizations.
Any organization that falls in one of the categories above is required to comply with the HIPAA compliancy rule checklist. Covered entities that fail to comply with the HIPAA checklist can face harsh financial and criminal penalties that can go up to $250,000 and ten years in prison.
With all of this said, it’s necessary to keep in mind that not all healthcare organizations are required to meet HIPAA compliance. This act only applies to organizations that transfer protected health information for transactions that the HHS has adopted standards. This is a vital aspect of HIPAA, and all patients should be aware of before sharing any sensitive health and personal data.
HIPAA Breach Notification Rule To-Do
The detailed HIPAA checklist includes precise breach notification requirements covered entities must meet in case of such a situation. The list includes the following actions:
- Individual Notice – The company must notify all of its affected individuals after the discovery of a breach of poorly protected information. These notifications must be sent without any unreasonable delay, and no later than 60 days following the discovery of a breach. The individual notice also draws a set of user protection options, including a toll-free phone where individuals can get helpful information and advice on what to do to avoid any further potential harm.
- Media Notice – Covered entities that face a breach that affects more than 500 residents of a single jurisdiction or state must also provide a notification to prominent media outlets operating in that jurisdiction or state. Just like the previous notification, the media notice must be provided within a reasonable period, no later than 60 days.
- Notice to the Secretary – In addition to the first two notification to-do requirements, covered entities must also notify the Secretary of breaches of unsecured protected health information. If a breach affects more than 500 individuals, the covered entity must notify the Secretary within 60 days. If, however, the breach affects less than 500 individuals, the covered entity can notify the Secretary on an annual basis.
HIPAA Сompliance Requirements
We’ve already established that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act precisely defines protection standards for sensitive patient information. Besides the HIPAA Security Rule and the Privacy Rule, HIPAA also established a set of safety guidelines regarding specific patient data that is held or transferred in electronic form. Naturally, such standards come with physical, technical, and administrative security that every company has to follow to be HIPAA compliant.
Going by official information provided by the HIPAA, technical standards are the technology and policies set in place to protect and manage access to sensitive patient data. In other words, it obliges the covered entity to implement every and any necessary measure that would allow it to maintain reasonable and appropriate security standards. Legislators have intentionally stressed the “reasonable and appropriate” part of this standard, as it allows every health organization to establish a security mechanism in accordance with its database, budget, and complexity of the data itself.
Physical safeguards include all of the physical measures, procedures, and policies to safeguard electronic systems from unauthorized physical intrusion, environmental, and natural hazards. It involves everything from the company’s office to separate physical storage or employees’ devices that contain sensitive information which requires proper storage. While they are not as sophisticated as technical and administrative security standards, physical safeguards are a necessary security measures every organization should have in place.
Just as technical safeguards protect control and manage access to sensitive information, administrative safeguards are set in place to manage the organization’s workforce concerning the protection of the said information. It means that every covered entity must implement guidelines and policies that help employees use and manage health information properly. To expand on this a bit, administrative standards stipulate that every organization must adequately realize and monitor delegation of responsibility, employee training requirements, and document all decisions.
How to Get HIPAA Compliance
The truth is that there are no specific inside tips that can help a company pass the HIPAA audit checklist without putting in all of the necessary work. HIPAA compliance requires a covered entity (the company) to ensure maximum confidentiality, integrity, and availability of protected health information and developing protection procedures and policies per the HIPAA checklist.
To achieve HIPAA compliance, the company must study and apply every rule condensed into HIPAA’s 115 pages. Since such an in-depth procedure can have a disheartening effect on the majority of providers, most companies decide to cooperate with third-party HIPAA IT compliance companies that can help them implement all of the required policies appropriately.
Hideez Enterprise Solution for Healthcare is a simple step to become HIPAA compliant. It eliminates the risk of phishing attacks, encrypts the credentials, and makes them invisible for the employees protecting you from accidental disclosure. Hideez solution enables seamless computer lock and unlock by proximity, which is especially useful in the environment with multiple shared computers.
How to Remain HIPAA Compliant
Just by doing a simple online search, you can find dozens of results on how to stay in line with the legislation set in place by HIPAA. Needless to say, not all of them can guarantee that you’ll pass the HIPAA report on compliance and maintain a HIPAA compliance status. Having said that, here are three surefire ways methods to carry out:
- Regular risk analysis
- Detailed compliance documentation
- Highly-trained staff
Violations of HIPAA Compliance Laws
Now that we understand the basic HIPAA compliance rules and the most important measures to implement to stay compliant, let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of HIPAA compliance violations. There are hundreds of possibilities in which HIPAA compliant data rules can be violated, but the most common ones are:
- Failure to perform Company-Wide Risk Analysis
- Failure to manage security risks
- Snooping on private healthcare records
- Disclosures of protected health information
- Denying individuals access to their health records
- Failure to document compliance efforts
- Failure to provide sufficient HIPAA training
Of course, to be completely transparent, we have to mention that some HIPAA privacy compliance violations come from accidental offenses.
Nonetheless, ignorance and accidental offenses still require certain corrective actions against the company, albeit probably without any significant financial penalties. Additionally, we also want to mention that HIPAA doesn’t preempt state law. The only exception when this is the case is in circumstances when a state’s regulations are weaker than those on the HIPAA checklist.