How to ensure your organization's HIPAA compliance in the coming year

How to ensure your organization's HIPAA compliance in the coming year

Despite the rapid growth of cyberthreats, health organizations continue to fail to keep up with the mounting privacy and security issues. However, when the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on May 25, 2018, it drew a range of responses from various sectors and industries, and companies have since made substantial changes to their data management and security policies.

Unfortunately, some businesses found the the task too overwhelming that they either suspended operations or completely closed. But this is not an option for the healthcare industry. Healthcare organizations should already be compliant with local privacy laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the privacy rule that protects individually identifiable health information stored or transferred by a business or a covered entity in any form whether digital, physical, or verbal.

As you move forward, staying ahead of security threats will require adhering to regulations, making sure you are compliant, and ensuring a strong, reliable, and flexible plan. Here are some tips on how you can improve your compliance efforts:

Do a PHI inventory

This process will help you determine and re-evaluate how your business collects, uses, stores, shares, and disposes of its protected health information (PHI). An inventory reveals the risks where a breach may occur, so you can plan strategically to protect PHI and develop the best plan for a response, based on real information.

On a security level, a PHI inventory means knowing where the systems, servers, and applications that capture and use PHI are. You should understand the regulatory requirements and define the risk of exposure of the PHI while communicating the risks to your IT and security staff.

Perform a HIPAA security evaluation

Assess your organization's security policies and procedures to ensure they're up-to-date and they reflect any environmental and operational changes. This is a mix of both a technical and non-technical evaluation that lets you you pinpoint the holes between its current protection levels and what the HIPAA Security Rule requires.

Conduct a HIPAA risk analysis

A good HIPAA risk analysis goes beyond simply conducting high level evaluations, but also applying them to the PHI data assets identified during inventory. This covers the assessment of the potential risks to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of digital PHI, so they can be properly identified and mitigated.

Create a mitigation plan

Knowing the specific risks your business could face can help you establish the preventive measures necessary for compliance with federal regulations. Your compliance and mitigation plan should include all aspects of the HIPAA Security Rule. These aspects should cover policies and procedures around emerging technologies like social media, technical safeguards, including user authentication, encryption, access and audit controls for access to PHI, and mechanisms for safely transmitting data.

It's important for businesses to know that negligence can result in unauthorized use or disclosure of PHI, patient harm (loss of data, physical/emotional harm), and network medical device loss of integrity. If you want to learn more, the new HIPAA Compliance Checklist 2019 can provide health professionals and business owners a comprehensive summary of everything that federal HIPAA regulation requires for an effective compliance program.

Still not sure if you’re getting your own compliance done properly? Charles IT has years of experience in security and compliance services. From DFARS to HIPAA assessments to penetration testing, our team of experts can ensure your business is compliant with industry regulations and standards. Give us a call today and find out how we can help you.

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