HIPAA Compliance and Its Importance in the Healthcare Industry

HIPAA compliance is a hot topic in the healthcare industry–but what is it, and exactly why is it so important? If you deal with patient records or healthcare data in any form, it’s crucial that you know what HIPAA compliance is, how to be compliant, and why it is essential to the industry.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, sets specific standards that outline how medical practices must act in order to protect confidential patient data, from not sharing that information to instituting a high level of virtual security to help protect against outside attacks. In essence, all patients have the right to have their confidential data protected. While their medical records must be accessible and available to them and to their other medical care providers as needed, providers must offer a high level of security that protects against identity theft or allowing someone else to access confidential patient information.

Protected health information includes any personally identifying data related to the individual. According to the HIPAA website, that means:

  • The individual’s past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition,
  • The provision of health care to the individual, or
  • The past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual.

Failure to protect that information can result in substantial consequences for the healthcare organization.

Maintaining HIPAA Compliance

When it comes to cybersecurity, maintaining HIPAA compliance means several key things.

1. Medical care providers must limit access to their facilities, their systems, and their data. 

They may need to use unique usernames and passwords to make it difficult for anyone who does not need access to specific patient information to access that data. In addition, those systems may track who has accessed specific patient data to make it easier to see how a breach occurred.

2. Medical care facilities need clear rules governing access to their workstations or electronic storage systems.

They should not simply allow free access to those workstations. Medical care providers, including nursing staff, therapists, and doctors, may have different workstations and different access from other employees in the facility, especially when it comes to employees who have no need to access patient data in the course of their usual job responsibilities and interactions.

3. Medical care facilities must have clear policies regarding the use and transfer of electronic records.

They must have validation systems in place that adhere to HIPAA guidelines when it comes to who they can transfer those documents to and who those documents may impact. They may need to validate individuals or entities who request that information or patient data before transferring it. In some cases, they may also need patient permission to share that information, including sharing it with insurance companies.

Why is HIPAA Compliance So Important in the Healthcare Industry?

HIPAA compliance is incredibly important throughout the healthcare industry. Not only can a lack of compliance lead to severe fines and, eventually, the loss of a medical license for doctors and facilities that fail to protect patient privacy, HIPAA helps protect patients.

HIPAA provides patients with the right to confidentiality.

Some patients do not want their private healthcare information shared with anyone. They may not want family members or friends to be able to call in and check up on their prognosis or treatment. Patients have the right to privacy in their interactions with medical care providers, and should not expect that private healthcare data be shared without their consent. HIPAA helps protect patient confidentiality and ensure that patient information is shared neither negligently nor inadvertently.

Maintaining HIPAA compliance helps protect patients from identity theft.

Sometimes, malicious attackers may attempt to steal a patient’s identity to commit insurance fraud or to secure medications, often narcotics, that the attacker has no right to, but that the patient can secure easily. With the information stored in many healthcare systems, unfortunately, hackers can all too easily access that information. By maintaining HIPAA compliance, however, medical care facilities and providers can help protect against identity theft.

HIPAA compliance helps build patient confidence.

If an office fails to maintain overall HIPAA compliance, many patients may wonder what other services the doctor has failed to provide as required, including medical care services. A data breach can leave patients wondering if they can trust their current medical care provider or if they should look elsewhere for their needs. Strong security standards and HIPAA compliance, on the other hand, help build patient confidence and assure them they are working with a reputable, trustworthy provider.

HIPAA helps provide organization for your healthcare facility’s data.

While HIPAA holds many benefits for patients, it also holds one major benefit for providers: it helps provide an organizational system that can make it easier to track and store data. It helps streamline operations within your facility itself and provides vital guidance as you attempt to transfer information between facilities–an important element of providing a high standard of patient care as they work with various providers to achieve their healthcare goals and maintain overall health and wellness.

HIPAA compliance significantly reduces the potential for a data breach. 

A data breach can be extremely costly for your organization. Ransomware can bring your facility’s overall functionality grinding to a halt, while malware may require a costly resolution. Not only that, when it comes out that your organization has been breached, you may find yourself losing patients as they look for providers who have higher levels of security. By staying in compliance with HIPAA regulations, you reduce the odds that your medical care facility will fall victim to a data breach, which may ultimately help prevent you from facing many of those costs.

Is your healthcare facility in HIPAA compliance? Do you have a high standard of security in place that will help protect your patients and your practice? If you have more questions about maintaining HIPAA compliance and the steps you need to take, contact us today to learn more about how we can help establish more effective cybersecurity practices for your organization.