With cyberattacks in the healthcare industry increasing exponentially in both frequency and complexity, organizations that want to keep their data safe are creating security-first policies and procedures that align with HIPAA compliance requirements. But which policies are best for your organization, and how can you maintain compliance at the employee level? The answer will depend on your individual needs, and the needs of your customers.
Policies And ProceduresAs every organization is different, there’s no authoritative list of mandatory policies you need to implement to get and stay HIPAA compliant. But there are some questions you can ask yourself to know if your policies are comprehensive and compliant.
Has your organization developed policies and procedures related to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification rules? This is where you can lay your procedural groundwork. If you don’t currently have HIPAA policies in place, now is the time, as failure to comply with regulations can result in fines up to $250,000, or imprisonment up to 10 years for knowing abuse or misuse of individual health information.
Have all staff read and attested to their understanding of these policies and procedures, and if so, can you provide supporting documentation to an auditor? Employees that handle personal health information (PHI) are required to understand what it is, and how to protect it. As an employer, it’s up to you to make sure your staff know the ins and outs of HIPAA regulations so they can keep your business—and your customers’ data—safe.
Does your organization annually review these policies and procedures? HIPAA compliance is not a ‘set it and forget it’ program, but a list of rules that is regularly updated. As such, your internal processes and procedures should be reviewed at least annually to make sure you’re still aligned and compliant with regulations.
Employee TrainingWhen it comes to cybersecurity, the employees in your organization tend to be the weakest link in your defense, so ensuring that everyone is working with—rather than against—your existing security controls is critical. All employees should receive security awareness training on a frequent, recurring basis. Security awareness training programs are designed to help users and employers understand the role they play in helping to combat security breaches.
From regulatory compliance to phishing awareness and general cybersecurity best practices, awareness training helps employees keep your organization—and its data—safe. An awareness program also allows you to keep track of which employees have completed training, which new staff need to get up to speed and even which users might need a refresher course.
For compliance, employees are required to undergo annual HIPAA training, and training must be documented for the purposes of any possible future audits. Keeping track of training details and dates increases in complexity as your business grows. It’s important to designate a HIPAA compliance, privacy or security officer at your organization to keep your process streamlined and your training on schedule and within regulations.
Because of the intricacies of HIPAA compliance, and the burden of completing and retaining annual reviews, many healthcare companies are increasing their collaboration with managed IT services providers (MSPs) to ensure they remain compliant, and PHI remains secure.
—Dana McConnell, Executive Director, Center for Developmental Services