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Are These 3 HIPAA Security Requirements Being Followed by Your Company?

Imagine this. A random person walks into the company where you offer health care services. They ask for the social security number of one of your patients. Then, the receptionist smiles and tells them what they want to know. That does not sound right.

HIPAA protects patients from scenarios like that. HIPAA sets up ways to protect individuals’ public health information (PHI).

For many companies, obeying HIPAA laws is a must. With this in mind, knowing if you’re a part of this group and doing what it takes to obey is important.

You can do a few things to make sure that your company obeys the administrative safeguards. They are:

  • Appoint a senior executive to charge of data security and HIPAA compliance.
  • Educate employees on your company’s privacy policies and how they apply to their jobs.
  • Determine which employees have access to patient information.
  • Back up your data and prepare an emergency plan in case of a failure that could result in data loss.
  • Conduct an annual data security audit.
  • Make a plan for dealing with data breaches. This includes notifying affected patients and repairing compromised IT systems.

Are These 3 HIPAA Security Rule Requirements Being Followed by Your Company?

The HIPAA Security Rule has three standard requirements. All business associates and covered entities must comply with them. The security rule consists of admin, technical, and physical safeguards. This is to ensure the integrity, security, and confidentiality of PHIs.

Administrative Safeguards

Administrative safeguards are policies that are in place to protect the essence of ePHI. These safeguards ensure that associates abide by the rules. It also manages employee behavior to ensure that they adhere to ePHI safety standards. Administrative safeguards include the following:

Security Management Process:

Companies must have security measures to reduce PHI security vulnerabilities.

Security Personnel:

According to the rule, a Privacy Officer is necessary. It must be someone who handles developing security policies.

Information Access Management:

This focuses on restricting unnecessary access to ePHI. Only authorized people can access that data when appropriate.

Workforce Training and Security Awareness:

In this standard, employees must complete training. They must also get education on the organization’s specific security procedures.

You can take a few steps to ensure that your company abides by the administrative safeguards. They are as follows:

  • Appoint a senior executive to be in charge of data security and HIPAA compliance.
  • Educate employees on your company’s privacy policies and how they apply to their jobs.
  • Determine which employees have access to patient information.
  • Back up your data and prepare an emergency plan in case of a failure that could result in data loss.
  • Conduct an annual data security audit.
  • Make a plan for dealing with data breaches. This includes notifying affected patients and repairing compromised IT systems.

Physical Safeguards

Physical safeguards are physical protection measures. They are procedures for safeguarding information systems against natural disasters. Physical safeguards protect data from unauthorized access too.  Another precaution is to secure areas where ePHI is kept.

Physical safeguards include the following:

Facilities’ Access Control:

This restricts access to where the company saves information systems.

Workstation Use:

It deals with the proper use of workstations. This can be any electronic computing device as well as electronic media.

Workstation Security:

It requires the installation of physical safeguards for workstations that access ePHI.

Device and Media Control:

The standard outlines the control of media. It includes disposal and reuse of media and data backup.

To obey the physical safeguards, your company should:

  • Limit computer access by keeping them behind counters and out of sight of the general public.
  • Teach employees and contractors physical safety best practices. This includes the importance of securing their cell phones and mobile devices.
  • Restrict access to secure areas and supervise building safety. Make sure to ask visitors to check-in.
  • Always upgrade and dispose of software and hardware. Use caution and best practices, including securely clearing hard drives.

Technical Safeguards

Policies that govern how technology protects ePHI are known as technical safeguards.  This policy manages data access. Technical safeguards are the most difficult to understand and implement.

Among the technical safeguards are:

Access Control:

It is the ability to read, write, change, and communicate data. Therefore, a covered entity must have policies that allow authorized individuals to access ePHI.

Audit Controls:

This covers tools for recording and examining ePHI activities. In addition, covered entities must have procedures that track access to systems that contain information.

Integrity:

The company prevents data from destruction or altered in an unauthorized manner.

Transmission Security:

It prevents unauthorized access to ePHI transmitted over an electronic network.

These safeguards keep your networks and devices safe from data breaches:

  • Back up your data in case someone deletes it or changes it by mistake.
  • Encrypt sensitive files sent via email by your organization. Ensure that any cloud-based platform you use supports encryption.
  • Use firewalls and intrusion detection to protect your network from hackers and cyber thieves.
  • Teach your employees how to recognize and avoid phishing scams.
  • Authenticate data transfers with a password or token etc.
  • Ask employees to change their passwords regularly. They should use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Have up-to-date documentation of your company’s technology and network configurations.

Other HIPAA security rules to look out for are:

Organizational Requirements

Organizational requirements include contract and agreement requirements for business associates. Internal memorandums of understanding are among the requirements.

Policies and Procedures and Documentation Requirements

This requires the implementation of necessary policies to stick to the Security Rule’s guidelines. It is concerned with the preservation of written documentation and records. It entails safeguarding the Security Rule’s records. These records could be digital or physical.

It is important to add that there are HIPAA fines. Fines ranging from $100 to $50,000 per infraction may be imposed if you do not comply.

Every health care company should address risks and vulnerabilities associated with PHIs. As a company, you should ask these three key risk analysis questions:

  1. Can we identify the sources of ePHI and PHI within the organization? Can we identify all PHI created, received, stored, or transmitted?
  2. What are the sources of PHI outside of the organization?
  3. What are the threats to ePHI and PHI-containing information systems?

The answers to the questions will help your company develop a compliant process. It will help you decide on measures to maintain HIPAA security management processes. It will help you:

  • Create a personnel screening procedure
  • Choose how and where you need to back up all data
  • Decide where and how to use encryption
  • Establish the data to authenticate to ensure data integrity
  • Put access control for physical workstations, electronic media, and data in place.

Conclusion 

HIPAA is flexible and scalable for every covered entity. The HIPAA Security Rule takes into account the general nature of different companies. In other words, not all HIPAA standards apply to all businesses. Some businesses need strict security measures to be in place. Others may only need the most basic precautions.

The HIPAA Security Rule affects entities based on their necessities. Each company must determine the appropriate security measures based on its environment.

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