Designed to provide privacy and security for electronic protected health information (ePHI), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has served as the cornerstone in that effort.
Since HIPAA’s implementation, the healthcare industry has made great efforts to remain in lockstep with the ever-increasing pace of technology and the industry-wide trend toward embracing the reliance on electric health records (EHR). HIPAA has proven its worth by instilling and fostering a nature of ePHI stewardship among healthcare staff, the patient community, board members and other third parties.
Hospitals, clinics, private practices, dental offices, pharmacies, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and any other covered entity or person associated with handling ePHI have all had to work earnestly to achieve and maintain compliance with the strict and extensive requirements associated with HIPAA.
It is important for these organizations to have a way to prove their commitment to protecting ePHI to with the community.
Why Is It Important to Prove HIPAA Compliance?
In a time when data breaches are at an all-time high and rising, it is more important than ever to provide assurances when it comes to protecting ePHI. Keep in mind that the healthcare industry suffers more data breaches than any other industry in the U.S., which makes up more than 24 percent of all breaches, as of 2017. The associated compromise of more than 5 million healthcare records amounts to about $380 per record.
With all that to counter, everyone who plans to do business with you at any level needs assurances that your organization is committed to the protection of ePHI and other sensitive data. The risk of exposure to a patient’s ePHI could put their financial health at stake while your vendors and other third parties may experience reputational fallout.
Therefore, you want to be able to let those relying on your organization upfront, so they always know that you are committed to protecting ePHI out of a sense of duty and diligence.
HIPAA is the gold standard when it comes to strengthening your organization’s brand by proving your current and consistent HIPAA compliance.
How Can You Easily and Effectively Prove HIPAA Compliance?
Like many businesses, you may already claim that your organization is “HIPAA Compliant” somewhere on your website. No matter how true your statement is, self-attestation is not always—or is it even terribly often—considered the most reliable source of information about such crucial matters.
While your word may be good enough for vendors with whom you have worked for years, their other clients and associates may not think it enough to protect them from risk. Every business along the chain of association must answer to someone else; therefore, it is essential to have verifiable proof of HIPAA compliance.
Following are three ways to prove your organization has officially achieved HIPAA compliance, so your enterprise’s hard work is easily and verifiably recognized.
With the self-assessment path to proving HIPAA compliance, there is no need to obtain third party verification or auditing services. Of course, this way of providing proof is the easiest, most expedient and least expensive, in terms of immediate costs.
The downsides add up quickly, though. The need to comb through all the policies and procedures on your own—without the assistance of a well-versed, professional HIPAA auditing team—can be laborious, to say the least.
Take a quick look at some additional challenges of taking on self-assessments:
- Self-attestation requires reviewing mountains of supporting documentation, which may include screen shots of settings and links to policies, to illustrate an organization’s compliance. Many businesses need to craft reports that thoroughly document the path to HIPAA compliance. Not surprisingly, self-attestation can become a long and arduous process for everyone involved.
- Some organizations do invest in specialized software that lays out all the policies and procedures, but it is still time-consuming and grueling for staff, including legal compliance personnel, to sift through so much information without regular exposure to it.
While self-attestation is manageable and doable for your team—and acceptable in the healthcare industry—the cost of human and administrative resources can cause your budget to spiral out of control while the sheer volume of work can cause your progress to stagnate.
2. Third Party Audits and Attestations
Reaching out to a trusted auditing firm to engage them to conduct an assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability of ePHI collected by your organization, which then stores, processes and transmits may be the easiest way to prove HIPAA compliance. Even with a somewhat greater initial cost, the expertise and instant assurance make this path to proof highly attractive to busy healthcare organizations.
The HIPAA auditor will compare his or her gathered data against the standards established by HIPAA to ensure that you have completely achieved HIPAA compliance. At the end of the audit, your auditor will provide an attestation and documentation, and you will have all the materials you need to provide verifiable proof of your organization’s full compliance.
With many top auditing firms, you will receive an official stamp or seal to add to your website, demonstrating proof of HIPAA compliance that shows your dedication to maintaining the privacy and security provision of HIPAA.
3. Purchase Software to Achieve HIPAA Compliance
If you find the first method of proving HIPAA compliance to be too risky for your vendors and other associates, and the second method to be too expensive, you may consider buying your own software to ultimately streamline the process of ensuring HIPAA compliance.
Many software programs provide thorough guidance to assist you in your HIPAA compliance goals.
The primary downsides to this method of providing proof include the fact that such a software program can be expensive, and you will need to seek regular updates through the product’s manufacturer, which may cost more money over time.
Get more information from our team of experts: Should HIPAA Audit Logs be Kept for 6 Years?
Would You Like to Discuss Additional Ways You Can Prove That Your Organization Has Achieved HIPAA Compliance?
Are you interested in learning about more ways you can prove your organization’s HIPAA compliance? Perhaps you need assistance becoming HIPAA compliant. Either way, our I.S. Partners, LLC. team is eager to talk to you about your needs and concerns when it comes to protecting ePHI and other issues you may encounter.