How to Become HIPAA Compliant

The Identity Theft Resource Center documents that the healthcare industry is one of the most targeted by cybercriminals. In 2018 alone, almost 15.1 million patients’ details were compromised.

This presents the need to ensure that your medical practice has state-of-the-art cybersecurity. HIPAA laws also stipulate that it is your responsibility to protect all of your facility’s healthcare data, so you can find yourself in legal trouble if you fail to implement proper compliance measures.

Below is a guide to HIPAA regulations, why they are necessary for healthcare organizations to comply with and how it can keep patient data safe:

What is HIPAA?

In long form, HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It is a legislation that was established to safeguard private medical details through security and data privacy. To implement HIPAA, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the Privacy Rule. The rule outlines the confines within which any organization can use and disclose one’s health details.

The HIPAA Security Rule in the Era of Identity Theft

The HIPAA rule has grown in popularity in recent years due to the rise in identity theft. Phishing, ransomware and other forms of cyberattacks aimed at personal details increased by 270% from 2017 to 2018. Since 2009, when HHS started keeping records, medical details of close to 67.7 million people have been compromised.

Health data lasts forever and can be used for numerous types of malicious undertakings, such as insurance fraud. HIPAA details several regulations that organizations have to familiarize themselves with and comply with. It clarifies the “protected health details” and highlights the technical and non-technical details essential for compliance.

Achieving HIPAA Compliance

You can ensure your medical practice’s compliance individually or have a Managed Service Provider do it for you. The two methods differ in the following ways:

Do-It-Yourself HIPAA Compliance

It begins with you personally managing your IT team and cybersecurity plans. This is only possible when you have the required expertise and your facility has a dedicated HIPAA Compliance IT Team. The following resources can help you to ensure HIPAA compliance under this approach:

    • Self-Assessment Checklist. It lists everything you have to do for full compliance. The AT&T Alien Labs Checklist is one of such that allows you to check your compliance progress. Since HIPAA regulations can change, you have to recheck your checklist whenever you do a compliance audit.
    • Risk-Assessment Tool. It is provided by the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. It helps you to seal loopholes that hackers and other cybercriminals could use.
    • NIST HSR Toolkit. It helps your practice to adhere to the Security Rule over time, especially after restructuring.
Outsourced HIPAA Compliance Done by a Managed Service Provider

This is highly effective as you get the services of an experienced Managed Service Provider specializing in healthcare IT. Such focus allows them to have niche knowledge, experience and resources to help your business stay compliant. Outsourcing your organization’s compliance also allows your own team to focus on core duties so as not to detract from patient care.

Since MSPs know HIPAA regulations inside and out, they can implement strategies that both ensure compliance and adjust to your unique organization’s needs. They also keep up with changes in the HIPAA Security Rule and know the latest cyber threats your business might face. Working with an MSP generally occurs in the following pattern:

    • Gap Analysis. The MSP carries this out to know how far your business has fallen out of HIPAA Compliance. This sheds light on information system access control, data storage and training of system administrators and managers. It also defines your practice’s security protocols and response measures.
    • Remediation Plan. After establishing the compliance gap, the MSP updates your network and processes. The costs here can vary depending on the findings of the gap analysis or rather your business’s cybersecurity state. However, after it’s done, your practice will be fully compliant.
    • Continued cybersecurity maintenance and monitoring. This includes the provision of personnel, tools and processes to ensure that your business stays HIPAA compliant at all times.

Prioritizing the correct implementation of HIPAA compliance measures is always a smart investment. It can be risky to undertake compliance in-house, but by partnering with a reliable MSP instead, you can avoid those risks and ensure full HIPAA compliance within your organization.