HIPAA has evolved since its creation to include additional rules & regulations
HIPAA is an abbreviation for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a selection of laws and procedures enacted in 1996 to improve privacy and efficiency in the healthcare system. The laws required the use of specific standards when handling electronic health records, including a set of HIPAA cybersecurity requirements and HIPAA compliance requirements.
The nationally-adopted laws aimed to protect private and identifiable healthcare information as electronic records became more and more common due to technological advancements. As part of the effort to keep patient records secure, healthcare providers and insurance companies needed to learn about and enforce HIPAA cybersecurity procedures and remain current on the newest rules and standards.
HIPAA has evolved since its creation to include additional rules, regulations, and covered entities that are obligated to follow cybersecurity guides when conducting electronic healthcare transactions. One of these additions to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is known as the Privacy Rule, and it became a legal requirement between April 2003 and April 2004.
HIPAA’s healthcare security standards focus on developing safeguards in healthcare administration, management, technology, and physical safety within offices. Components of these developments include:
The legal and medical terminology included in the more in-depth definitions and documentation supporting the Privacy Rule can be difficult to make sense of for professionals working outside of these industries. To cover the information in brief, a HIPAA Privacy Rule summary states that entities who conduct healthcare transactions electronically are required to have safeguards in place that serve to protect the privacy and unique health information of patients. The rule sets limits regarding usage and disclosures allowed without an individual’s consent. These standards also give patients and caregivers the right to view and have copies of their health records, send records from one entity to another, and make corrections to mistakes noted.
To make sense of the scope of this privacy rule, let’s address a common question posed by individuals and professionals learning about healthcare privacy and security.
“The HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to which of the following entities: health insurance plan providers, healthcare clearinghouses, or healthcare providers?”
All of the above. If an entity that is involved in healthcare conducts any electronic record transactions, that entity is bound by the HIPAA Privacy Rule unless a situation has occurred that triggers an exception to the standard rules.
Though HIPAA requires consent for the transmission of many elements of an electronic health record, the act included a couple of exceptions to the rules in the case of an emergency. HIPAA Privacy Rule exceptions include the following:
Compliance simply refers to covered entities acting in accordance with HIPAA standards. In order to be considered HIPAA compliant, covered entities are obligated to understand and implement the standards listed within the three rules of HIPAA.
The first of these three rules, the HIPAA Privacy Rule, has already been covered in the section above, but the remaining two rules of HIPAA compliance include The Security Rule and The Breach Notification Rule.
The Security Rule includes the national collection of security standards utilized to protect identifiable healthcare information. It’s closely related to the Privacy Rule in that it addresses the safeguards that covered entities are required to have in place in order to secure protected health information.
The Breach Notification Rule covers the actions that must be taken if a covered entity discovers a breach of protected health information. For example, if a covered entity notices a breach, the entity is required to submit a notification to HIPAA’s Secretary. If the breach affects more than 500 individuals, the notification must be submitted within 60 calendar days of its discovery, and if fewer than 500 individuals will be affected, the notification must be submitted within 60 calendar days of the year’s end.
An optimal way to ensure that a healthcare professional or covered entity is HIPAA compliant involves certification. Certification can either mean that an organization has passed a HIPAA Compliance Audit or that an organization’s employees have obtained the knowledge and skills needed to comply with HIPAA regulations.
Additionally, leaders and employees alike are encouraged to obtain and evaluate a HIPAA Compliance Checklist. This checklist provides a step-by-step guide that healthcare professionals can use to ensure that standards are being followed, risks have been assessed and mitigated, and effective security strategies have been implemented in order to maintain the highest level of compliance. Several healthcare organizations offer a HIPAA Compliance Checklist pdf file that covered entities can refer to for convenience. HIPAA Compliance pdfs include guidelines, questionnaires, HIPAA compliance examples, and additional resources that can be used for training and enforcement purposes.
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Effective cybersecurity is a key component of HIPAA compliance, and as such, it’s essential that covered entities have security protocols in place to protect their systems and networks from unauthorized, malicious access.
To ensure that cybersecurity tools and programs align with HIPAA compliance, these programs should be compared against HIPAA audit checklists and a HIPAA compliance checklist for software development. Only if a service or program complies with HIPAA guidelines is it appropriate for the protection of private health information.
For example, one of Trava’s business solutions is specifically designed to invest time and expertise into maintaining compliance requirements within a given industry. In addition, our software solutions determine a client’s risk level, assess system vulnerabilities, mitigate potential dangers, run simulations and tests, and even insure clients against future attacks.
Remaining compliant with current and emerging HIPAA regulations requires a system of tools and programs that guide and protect covered entities throughout each aspect of patient services and healthcare transactions. A well-designed collection of services will include:
By reviewing and understanding the HIPAA Compliance Checklist 2022, management teams within covered entities can simplify their organization’s cybersecurity needs. A solution should be in place to address each element of the checklist, both for current and subsequent years.
Cybersecurity in general can be quite complicated for individuals and organizations that do not specialize in that specific domain. To make better sense of HIPAA regulations, compliance requirements, and cybersecurity measures, HIPAA training programs present an immense benefit.
There are numerous HIPAA-related courses available for professionals who need to be knowledgeable about the scope of HIPAA standards and requirements. Many of these training programs include specialized focuses on digital, electronic, and cybersecurity aspects of healthcare.
For example, while some employees require basic HIPAA training, others may work in a more niche sector of the healthcare industry. Programs such as HIPAA IT Certification and Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Employees are more catered to these professional roles.
Additionally, in an effort to make HIPAA compliance accessible to all employees in healthcare-related work, several organizations offer free HIPAA training for employees. For healthcare professionals whose employers require certification, there are options to take free HIPAA training with certificates included.
While it’s essential for employees throughout every covered entity to be adequately trained in HIPAA practices and remain compliant with the evolving landscape of standards for electronic medical transactions, compliance alone is not enough.
Employing the use of the most advanced security programs and engaging in continuous network monitoring is a must when it comes to keeping private information secure. Human efforts can only accomplish so much, and to supplement those efforts, organizations need security automation, authentication steps, notifications, machine learning that predicts cyber-attacks before they occur, and constantly evolving safety measures.
If your organization is in need of cybersecurity and compliance tools, Trava has solutions that fit every industry’s need for safety and security. Visit us to learn more or schedule a demo with our team.