The medical sector is one of the most important and lucrative industries in the United States. However, it also poses challenges for healthcare providers concerning patient privacy, secure data management, and HIPAA compliance. All professionals who work within this industry must be aware of these challenges and take proactive measures to ensure they remain HIPAA compliant.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was enacted to protect medical and health information privacy. It specifically addresses the need for security, integrity, and confidentiality in handling medical records and personal information. Here are four practices medical offices should use to remain HIPAA compliant.
1. Use Strong Password Complexity Guidelines
Picking strong passwords for all account accesses is the most basic way to protect against malicious attacks on sensitive information. Use a custom password with a minimum of six characters and a combination of upper and lower case letters. This makes it difficult for hackers to break into accounts. It also makes brute force attacks more time-consuming. A better alternative is to use multi-factor authentication. MFA secures account login access by prompting a second form of authentication, such as a time-sensitive code, on an app or device.
2. Utilize Encryption
Encryption is the process of scrambling sensitive data. The information is then decoded in a way that does not allow unauthorized users to see it. A safelist of authorized individuals has access to the information. This helps with secure data sharing among certain personnel or when sending data to third parties, such as an insurance company. Encryption can prevent hackers from obtaining sensitive patient data, such as Social Security numbers and financial information. It also helps mitigate risks associated with lost or stolen devices and protects against eavesdropping.
3. Maintain a Detailed Audit Trail
Audit trails can be used to track who accessed information and what they did with it. They serve as a record of activity. The audit trail can help pinpoint where the breach began and what information was stolen. Maintaining a detailed audit trail also makes it easier to provide reports to regulators. To make audit trails more effective, they should be segmented by user or device, have a timestamp and include details related to the action that occurred. Documenting these details and the audit trail can help if a legal proceeding is required.
4. Use HIPAA Secure Software
HIPAA-compliant software allows current and future healthcare providers to manage patient information efficiently. The software is also designed to be secure, helping providers meet regulations. HIPPA secure software platform can make it easier for providers to develop business continuity plans, which is essential in a natural disaster or any other type of emergency. It should also be easy to use, user-friendly, and provide real-time data alerts to help detect possible problems.
The cost of HIPAA violations can be substantial. It could include fines, legal action, loss of reimbursement, and damage to reputation, among other penalties. Healthcare providers must take the time to implement best practices to protect sensitive information in electronic patient records and remain compliant.