The question of how to become HIPAA compliant can be frustrating to healthcare providers because of information bombardment. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to becoming HIPAA compliant. If you are in the healthcare business or want to start doing business with healthcare organizations you must have sufficient knowledge on how to become HIPAA compliant. 

Who exactly is required to be HIPAA Compliant?

Under the HIPAA law, being involved with healthcare organizations means either of one of the following:

  • Covered Entities: These are the organizations that transmit and collect PHI (Protected Health Information). Entities such as healthcare clearinghouses, health insurance planners and healthcare providers.
  • Business associates: Organizations that work with covered entities encountering PHI over the course of work are business associates. Examples include IT service providers, billing companies, practice management firms, physical or cloud storage providers, etc.

Now that we know which parties are entitled to HIPAA’s laws, let’s look at a few steps on how to become HIPAA Compliant:

Understand the rules first

HIPAA Compliance is a composition of several rules and regulations that have been changed and expanded since its enactment in 1996. Let’s break down the rules:

  • HIPAA Privacy Rule: This rule only applies to covered entities such as health providers who conduct certain healthcare transactions electronically. The HIPAA Privacy Rule sets the standard for the control of access to PHI, such as how PHI should be used and disclosed. The Rule gives patients their right to access their medical information on request. 
  • HIPAA Security Rule: This rule applies to both covered entities and business associates, especially when information is in transit between them. The HIPAA Security Rule sets the standard for security and coherence of the PHI, including handling of medical records whether they are physical or electronic. The main safeguards are within the security rule. This includes:
    • Technical safeguards to protect electronic data such as data encryption. 
    • Administrative safeguards where policies and procedures on PHI protection are explained.
    • Physical safeguards that involve actual physical structures such as control facility access or staff.
  • HIPAA Omnibus Rule: This rule is an appendix that was added to HIPAA that made it mandatory for business associates to be HIPAA Compliant, whereas previously only covered entities were entitled to. This Rule also sets the standard for Business Associate Agreements (BAAs). BAAs must be executed between organizations exchanging PHI before any information is exchanged.
  • HIPAA Breach Notification Rule: The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule sets the standard on how business associates and covered entities respond in case of PHI breach. In case of a minor breach involving 500 or fewer people, the breach must be notified to HHS within 60 days of the end of the calendar year. Larger breaches involving 500 or more people must be reported within 60 days of discovery. In addition, affected victims must also be notified. 

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Assign an internal team that makes sure you become HIPAA compliant

Managing HIPAA Compliance can become hectic and monotonous. Therefore, establish an internal team with one or two people in charge who are well knowledgeable on how to become HIPAA compliant. This team will be responsible for ensuring that your data remains safe, secure and confidential. Furthermore, the team can ensure that your HIPAA policies are air-tight and flexible.

Develop your privacy policies

Once you have set to become HIPAA compliant by putting up new privacy policies in place, make sure these policies are communicated across your organization. Ensure that these privacy policies are easily found and visible across various platforms, such as websites, bulletin boards, etc. If there is a need for change in policies, make sure it is updated and conveyed to the external stakeholders and patients involved.

Train your staff members

Probably one of the most important aspects of becoming HIPAA Compliant is that your staff members are well trained and informed on the basic parameters of HIPAA. It is not necessary for all your employees to know about the finer technicalities that HIPAA entails, but the basic protocols are enough to avoid any violation. Often it has been seen that employees are the weakest that contributes to cybersecurity breaches because they lack the basic knowledge. No one in their right mind would want to be the cause of HIPAA violation, so, it’s better to train your employees periodically.

Perform periodical self-audits

It is for the best if you periodically check and test your exposures to any risks. HIPAA requires practices to perform annual audits for assessing technical, physical, or administrative gaps in compliance with HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. One small gap can lead to another and the next thing you know you have to pay a hefty amount in penalties because of cyber attackers, hackers or even inadvertent employee mistakes.

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Become HIPAA Compliant with HIPAA Ready

To remain HIPAA compliant, continuous efforts must be made to ensure that your safeguards are functional and employees are aware of the responsibilities with respect to HIPAA and PHI. In HIPAA’s journal “How to become HIPAA compliant”, they stressed the importance of taking assistance from third parties to simplify your compliance efforts. And that is exactly what we do.

HIPAA Ready is a robust HIPAA Compliance software that provides the platform to perform regular risk assessments. Furthermore, this software includes digital checklists of tasks, meetings and training information that can help organizations to comply with HIPAA very easily. 

Moreover, documentation is probably the single most important aspect that can serve as proof that you are making efforts to become HIPAA compliant when regulators come for inspection during audits. Documentation can also help you keep track of records and progresses you are making. HIPAA Ready can be the database for documents while you streamline your activities more efficiently by saving valuable time and resources.

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