HIPAA challenges of 2021: 6 ways the healthcare sector is responding

HIPAA challenges of 2021: 6 ways the healthcare sector is responding

As we start to turn the tide against the coronavirus pandemic after a year of public health dominating the news headlines, the world of medicine and healthcare is undergoing a greater and faster transformation than anyone could ever have anticipated. Digital health technologies are now accelerating at a breakneck pace as trends, like remote work and telemedicine, become deeply entrenched in the sector.

While the increasing digitization of the healthcare sector introduces massive and far-reaching benefits to patient care and public health overall, there are still plenty of challenges along the path to digital transformation. Among these are the pervasive threats of data breaches, where healthcare is a favorite target for cybercriminals and state-sponsored hackers alike. Assuring privacy and security in the digital age is one of the biggest HIPAA compliance challenges of all.

#1. Telemedicine continues to advance rapidly

In response to an urgent and sudden need to provide patient consultations remotely over the web in the wake the pandemic, the HHS announced in March 2021 that it would not impose penalties against covered entities and their business associates for breaking HIPAA privacy rules by using video conferencing solutions that aren’t fully compliant. However, this will almost certainly change in 2021, especially since popular solutions providers, such as Zoom, are now providing HIPAA-compliant plans.

#2. Patients seek greater control over their data

The past few years has seen a slew of new legislation pertaining to the fundamental rights to privacy of citizens, especially with regards to what third parties can and cannot do with their data. This also applies to HIPAA-covered data, in which patients will soon have the right to request access to their data, including elements like clinical notes. In the near future, patients may also have the right to request the deletion of their medical records, at least in cases where doing so can be deemed safe in the interests of personal and public health.

#3. Business associates are under rising pressure

As healthcare providers branch out, using an ever-increasing range of technology tools and services, the number of organizations legally defined as business associates is increasing all the time. The Office of Civil Rights is expected to keep an even closer eye on these businesses over the coming years to address widespread, systematic non-compliance with HIPAA privacy and security rules. As such, we can expect random checks and audits to be stepped up, and penalties for compliance failures increase substantially.

#4. Cybersecurity is more important than ever

Perhaps the biggest HIPAA compliance challenge is the fact that cybersecurity continues to get more complex. The threats are becoming more sophisticated and exploiting an ever-wider range of different systems and architectures, and nation-state attackers are also joining the fray in what is often described as the fourth theatre of warfare. It has never been more important to incorporate security and privacy by design and default, and working towards compliance later on as an afterthought is no longer a sustainable approach.

#5. Health information exchanges are essential

Health information exchanges are routine whenever a patient registers with a new GP or visits a healthcare facility outside of their usual region. But, as the ongoing public health emergency has taught us, these exchanges have become vital in the implementation of testing and tracing methods and more. The current pandemic might be gradually on its way out, but it certainly won’t be the last public health emergency, and organizations will be under increasing pressure to implement ways to easily, quickly, and safely exchange public health.

#6. HIPAA compliance training enters the spotlight

Finally, it’s important to remember that cybersecurity and information privacy aren’t inherently technical challenges. Anyone is a potential target, and many attackers aren’t actual hackers, and instead rely on exploiting good old-fashioned human ignorance and unpreparedness to launch devastating phishing scams. Indeed, human error and susceptibility to these attacks mean that people are indeed the weakest link in most security and compliance strategies. To mitigate the risks and ensure everyone on your team is accountable and prepared to tackle the latest threats, you need a HIPAA compliance training program in place.

Charles IT pinpoints the security and compliance risks that may put your digital transformation in jeopardy and helps you overcome the HIPAA challenges for faster, safer innovation. Get in touch today to schedule your first assessment.