The Importance of HIPAA Compliance Across the Healthcare Industry

HIPAA compliance: it's a buzzword that you may hear thrown around healthcare organizations, but what does it mean, exactly?

by | Jun 12, 2021 | Tech Insights

The Importance of HIPAA Compliance Across the Healthcare Industry

HIPAA compliance: it’s a buzzword that you may hear thrown around healthcare organizations, but what does it mean, exactly? Why is it so important for healthcare organizations–and is your facility in compliance? If you have been struggling to maintain compliance standards or do not have adequate security across your healthcare facility, HIPAA compliance is a critical first place to start. It helps govern a great deal of the transfer and protection of information within and outside your facility.

For healthcare organizations, HIPAA is paramount. It helps ensure that patients’ privacy is protected, both in person and virtually. Working with an experienced IT and/or cybersecurity provider can help ensure that you meet virtual HIPAA standards as well as in-person standards across your organization.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The act was created to help protect sensitive patient health information and ensure that patients retained control over who can access and use their health information. It covers restrictions on healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses.

HIPAA controls when healthcare organizations and facilities can disclose protected health information. It allows for disclosure to the specific individual receiving treatment, disclosure for the purposes of treatment or payment, and disclosure for the benefit of public interest or activities. It protects against all other disclosures of that private patient information without the consent of the patient. Many patients want to remain very private about their healthcare information. They do not want to share their conditions, their treatments, or the struggles they have been through. They may feel embarrassed or simply not want their information out there for the world to see. Furthermore, patients have the right to security with regards to insurance information, personal identifying information, and private financial information, all of which may be contained in your system. HIPAA helps set out the standards you must maintain in order to protect that confidential patient data and allow them to make their own decisions about who can see, access, and use that information.

HIPAA Cybersecurity Standards

In addition to maintaining the basic standards of deliberately sharing patient healthcare data, HIPAA issues guidelines for the cybersecurity standards to which healthcare organizations must adhere.

At its basic level, HIPAA requires that all healthcare organizations ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all virtual healthcare records. It requires you to:

Identify and protect against reasonably anticipated security threats.

Cybersecurity threats have increased immensely in recent years. Information is more vulnerable than ever before–and many hackers are looking for ways to compromise organizations. Healthcare organizations must ensure that they identify potential, reasonably anticipated threats to the organization and protect against them. This may include things like making sure you have reasonable firewalls and anti-malware protections in place as well as segmenting your networks so that guests cannot easily access the protected network where you store confidential data.

Healthcare data is a hot commodity. Hackers and unethical individuals want access to your patient records so that they can commit insurance fraud, steal prescriptions, or get access to private patient information. As cybersecurity threats grow, your organization may face increasing insecurity, especially if you do not stay on top of your security needs. Working with an experienced provider, on the other hand, can go a long way toward ensuring that you remain up to date with the latest security information, including protection against frequent security threats.

Protect against unauthorized uses or disclosures of confidential patient data that you can anticipate ahead of time.

Many threats exist to confidential patient data, from the specific conditions a patient may have to the patient’s insurance information. Insurance fraud has become increasingly common, and many facilities must act in order to protect against those potential threats. In addition to protecting against external threats, that may mean also taking steps to protect against potential internal threats. For example, healthcare organizations may need to protect against internal workers accessing data for patients they do not personally work with.

By segmenting internal information, organizations can often provide a higher degree of protection for their patients and their organizations as a whole. In order to provide higher levels of patient protection, you may also want to create a system that logs access to protected information. If information does get shared outside the organization without the permission of the patient, you can then more easily track the problem back to its source and deal with it quickly.

Make that information accessible when needed.

As part of their electronic records storing systems, healthcare facilities must ensure that their patients’ information is accessible when they need it for any reason. Not only does that mean that patients should be able to access their health records at need, it means that facilities must have a robust data backup system in place that will ensure that even if patient records are compromised, they have the tools on hand to restore that information and provide patients with vital access to their healthcare data.

Patient access to past records, and the ability to share that information with other providers, can prove critical to the patient’s overall quality of care. If you lose access to that information, you may no longer have access to patients’ test results, past procedures patients have had, or medications they have tried. You might even lose records of negative reactions patients have had to solutions they may have tried in the past, which may mean that a patient may end up inadvertently trying that solution again. Data backups, therefore, are essential for all healthcare facilities.

At Network Security Associates, we specialize in helping healthcare organizations adapt their security to the high-level protection that their patients both need and deserve. Failing to remain in HIPAA compliance can not only result in hefty fines for the organization, it can leave you struggling with the lack of care provided to your patients. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help bring you up to compliance standards and ensure that you can protect your networks and your data to offer a better standard of patient care.