Meeting the Challenges of HIPAA Compliance
As communications with patients become more electronic, the nuances of keeping protected health information (PHI) safe and secure continue to evolve, making it difficult to consistently manage compliance with HIPAA regulations. Despite the challenges, organizations must stay on top of their information privacy and security procedures to mitigate the risk of threats and safeguard sensitive patient information.
Although there are several ways to futureproof your HIPAA compliance program, organizations can stay ahead by leveraging the following three strategies.
1. Regularly Assess How HIPAA-Protected Information Is Shared in Your Facility and Beyond
Before you can address any shortfalls in information privacy and security, it’s important to first gain an appreciation of how your organization shares PHI and whether the process has changed since the last time you checked.
Consider developing a HIPAA compliance strategy that includes the following elements:
- Determination of the various departments, vendors and business associates with which your organization may exchange protected health information
- Review of the various forms of internal and external communication in use
- Examination of what security measures are in place
Such a practice can make it easier to keep track of process changes and new developments. Organizations should review this document regularly—ideally once a year—to ensure any new vendors, communication vehicles or other risk points are addressed.
2. Implement Mitigation Strategies Based on Security Hazards
During the assessment, potential holes in your organization’s HIPAA compliance efforts may reveal themselves. It’s paramount for organizations to determine the best way to close such gaps, whether that be providing additional staff training, installing new or stronger encryption software, updating policies to reflect social media use or other necessary initiatives to strengthen existing weaknesses.
3. Have a Plan for Breach Notifications
Despite your organization’s commitment to HIPAA compliance, it is still possible to experience a breach. This could simply involve an unintentional lapse in protocol by a staff member or a more nefarious situation, such as a hacking event. Organizations should have detailed policies that outline how they will respond to a breach, including how they will notify all parties affected.
You Don’t Have to Tackle this Task Alone
Ensuring continuous HIPAA compliance requires constant vigilance and should be a top priority in today’s evolving health care landscape. To help with this effort, organizations can turn to an external HIPAA expert that has the knowledge and experience to support a robust and reliable program. At Stericycle, we offer a comprehensive program that includes assessment assistance, training and more, serving as a valuable resource when creating, modifying and sustaining a solid HIPAA compliance program.