HIPAA Compliancy and IT: What Healthcare Providers Need to Know

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It’s no secret that knowing the ins and outs of HIPAA compliancy is a must for professionals in the healthcare industry. Spurred by the rise of security breaches, privacy threats, and the ever-changing world of technology, protecting the privacy and rights of individuals in the healthcare industry has only become an increased priority.

It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the terminology and applications of HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, before diving into how it affects you and your practice. HIPAA establishes a principle of accountability in the accessing and handling of private health insurance information. In essence, being HIPAA compliant means that you have a liable and secure defense against the misuse and exploitation of confidential information.

Taking steps to reduce the risk of violating HIPAA laws is not just a safeguard; it’s a necessity. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your business from the looming threat of security breaches, as well as how to avoid negligence on the job.

The first line of defense lies in the strength of the technical safeguards related to protecting ePHI, or electronic Protected Health Information. EPHI must be encrypted to NIST standards, which renders confidential information unreadable and useless to any potential hackers. This encryption needs to happen immediately after the information passes out of the threshold of the organization’s local area network.

This information can be protected in many ways, and begins with using technical features to eliminate human error or misuse. To lessen the probability of potential threats or oversight, make sure each employee has a secure and unique password or PIN that is required to gain access to ePHI. Implementing an expiration feature that triggers an automatic log-off after a certain time frame of each unattended session also ensures that no unauthorized personnel gains access to the information.

Encryption is another way we can protect information from being read by or shared among unintended parties. The devices used to access the information must have the capability of encrypting and decrypting data in order to safely communicate with and send messages to one party from another.

Authenticating ePHI is a crucial component of HIPAA compliance as well. In order to monitor and track the access, distribution, and use of private records, an automatic and verifiable authentication method must be implemented. This means of security can determine if any ePHI has been unlawfully modified or destroyed in any way. Introducing audit controls that measure the activities relating to the use of ePHI is a technical practice that will increase accountability and add another dimension of protection.

Email privacy is another area with which IT professionals should be concerned. Because medical records have become almost universally digital, there is a heightened threat of malware and phishing attacks that have the potential to damage and steal information. IT professionals can use a spam and content filter in order to defend against this risk and deter potential hackers, phishing attempts, and viruses.

The importance of IT security and protection as it relates to the compliance of HIPAA is a growing concern that necessitates staying current with each of the ways risk can be minimized. Because of the complex nature of HIPAA compliancy and its implications, healthcare professionals may want to consider outsourcing to a company such as RED74. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, be sure to revisit this blog in the future as we explore this topic more in depth.

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