The US healthcare landscape is highly regulated, and the business environment gets more complex by the day. In light of the growing cases of successful data breaches in the health sector, it’s imperative to adopt effective compliance strategies and policies in your practice.
HIPAA regulations require health practitioners to secure transferred or stored patient data from erasure, alteration, breaches, and other similar issues. The rule offers different requirements that may seem overwhelming, but you can’t afford to fail the compliance test.
Overview of HIPAA Regulations
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (1996) required the HHS to create regulations that protect the security, privacy, and credibility of specific health data. The HHS Secretary fulfilled the requirement by publishing the HIPAA Security Rule and the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
The Privacy Rule establishes nationwide standards defining how health organizations and their partners should protect specific health data. On the other hand, the Security Rule provides a set of national security standards that protect certain health data transferred or stored in electronic form.
It operationalizes the different protections highlighted in the Privacy Rule and addresses non-technical and technical safeguards that covered entities must implement to secure protected health information.
The OCR (Office for Civil Rights) within HHS enforces the Security and Privacy Rules through civil money penalties and voluntary compliance activities. To be on the safe side, you must implement a practical security strategy covering all essential elements of HIPAA compliance.
The Seven Elements of HIPAA Compliance
To avoid HIPAA violation penalties, healthcare providers and compliance executives should establish an effective compliance program that encompasses the following HIPAA core elements:
1. Written Standards, Procedures, and Policies of Conduct
The first element of HIPAA compliance is a compilation of written practices and policies comprising a compliance program, ethics and code of conduct, disaster recovery plan, and training and corrective action plans. These policies must be adopted throughout the organization and should be created and documented proactively in a future-focused manner.
Staff at all levels must be involved and engaged and must deliver their input and any suggestions for changes. This way, they’ll easily buy-in and establish a more robust compliance culture that scales as the organization grows.
2. A Designated Compliance Committee and Officer
The next vital HIPAA compliance element involves determining who will be in charge of the compliance program and the different committee members. Design the member’s responsibilities as a group and their roles as individuals, how frequently they should meet, specific areas of discussion, and how they’ll share their conversations.
You must also determine how they should be reached by other staff and how the committee will work in unison to meet your organizational compliance goals.
3. Effective Training Programs
Having a robust compliance program and relevant documentation won’t be enough if workers don’t know about it. When new workers join the organization, they should have someone train them and a specific time set for the job. New employees need proper documentation and online systems to access policies and a reference point to address all their questions regarding the policies and procedures.
Your training system should handle a massive chunk of documents and distribute compliance policies to the respective workers via workflows. They should easily access any policies they need within the system and provide employee testing and acknowledgment capabilities. Finally, the training shouldn’t be a one-off thing, but a continuous process to ensure workers are continually updated.
4. Open Communication Lines
You have to embed openness and transparency in your corporate culture – the ability to discuss HIPAA compliance issues confidently and share their views without fear of retaliation. Employees should freely seek clarification whenever they feel unsure about a particular procedure, policy, or potential violation. Your policies and procedures must also detail the means of communication and where they’ll communicate issues. All this information and insights should be readily accessible by staff.
5. Clear Disciplinary Actions
HIPAA compliance also requires organizations to outline the appropriate steps of enforcing the program, beginning with your approach to distributing and training your staff on the procedures and policies. Policy management should be combined with the third compliance element to support this effort by sending automatic notifications to team members whenever you publish a new policy and seek their opinions. Once done, you should establish the actions to take when an employee doesn’t adhere to the program.
6. Auditing and Monitoring
Like your vehicle that requires regular servicing, your organization’s compliance program requires regular auditing to establish its effectiveness and relevance. Determine the frequency at which these audits should be conducted, then design a follow-up plan detailing the next steps after a successful audit. How will you fix the problems identified during the audit, and how long should this take?
An automated system will ensure you’re always ahead through constant reminders whenever you need to update or renew your policy. The compliance committee and the corporate compliance offers must be authorized to access the system.
7. Prompt Response and Corrective Action Plans
A comprehensive HIPAA compliance program must include training on policy and procedure implementation and the different corrective actions to address violations and keep employees informed moving forward. Your organization’s corrective action strategy should describe how to identify, confirm and handle a compliance violation. Who should be notified? What’s the suitable disciplinary action?
The primary focus here is the fix the issue and tweak your current program so that the problem doesn’t recur.
All these HIPAA compliance elements insist on having detailed, well-documented policies and procedures relevant to your practice. The records must be organized and the documents designed to aid the management of the entire program and the respective policies and procedures.
With HRCT You’re in Safe Hands
You want a robust HIPAA compliance program that encompasses all the seven elements highlighted in this comprehensive post. This will streamline your compliance efforts and reduce time, cost, and administrative burden.
A centralized monitoring and management system will help you manage all procedures, training, policies, and meetings and reduce unnecessary administrative work hours and paperwork. That’s where Hampton Roads Communication Technologies (HRCT) comes in.
Speak to us today, and we’ll guide you to create a practical HIPAA compliance plan and boost your overall system and network security.