What Exactly is HIPAA Compliance / Certification?
HIPAA compliance or certification is an issued assurance often provided to private companies that service the healthcare industry. HIPAA certification comes in many shapes and sizes. At its most basic, HIPAA “certification” is a process meant to aid an organization’s HIPAA compliance. It may be an evaluation of the organization’s compliance, or it may be a “boot camp” training seminar for individuals within the workforce. The healthcare industry functions mostly on the ability to store important patient medical documents in an electronic database – which is the main selling point of being HIPAA compliant. Due to the numerous technological advances in the world today, those in the healthcare industry are enjoying their ability to have better and quicker access to healthcare information. This is mainly due to the fact that these organizations always do business with a HIPAA-compliant outsourcing partner.
Even though technological advances are being made to greatly decrease committing any mistakes, there are always serious threats that could occur from the outside. Those threats mean there will be involvement from the government when there is not enough compliance from healthcare providers. For this concern, we provide numerous documents for each situation, the latest of which is our PCI compliance, and just recently, our HIPAA compliance. These certifications are one of the most important things when it comes to dealing with any outsourcing service provider.
But how can you know if dealing with a service provider that is HIPAA compliant is really the right move for you? Well, here are a couple of reasons why you should, let’s dive right in.
Why is Being HIPAA Compliant Important?
The first reason for its importance is that, in order to achieve accreditation, organizations will have to adopt best privacy practices and implement the administrative, technical, and physical safeguards of the HIPAA Security Rule. This in itself will reduce the likelihood of HIPAA violations and data breaches – leading to a reduction in complaints and investigations. Having a HIPAA certification demonstrates an intention to operate compliantly, making an organization´s services more attractive and reducing the amount of due diligence required before a prospective client or business associate enters into a service agreement or sale.
The Benefits of HIPAA in the Workforce
Certifying that an organization´s workforce is HIPAA compliant can have similar benefits to those mentioned above. A compliant workforce is less likely to violate HIPAA or make mistakes that could result in data breaches. Similarly, achieving workforce HIPAA certification demonstrates a reasonable amount of care to abide by the HIPAA Rules in the event of an investigation or audit.
For individual members of the workforce, HIPAA certification can help foster trust, support applications for promotion, and increase prospects in the job market. However, it is what workforce members learn during a certification program that can have the biggest impact on their professional lives, as this can help prevent unintentional violations that can have significant consequences.
Unintentional violations of HIPAA can be attributed to a lack of knowledge, shortcuts being taken “to get the job done”, or because a cultural norm of noncompliance has been allowed to develop. Whatever the reason, violations of HIPAA can result in sanctions ranging from written warnings to loss of professional accreditation – sanctions that can be avoided by applying the information learned during a certification program.
The other benefits of dealing with a HIPAA certified business are as follows:
1. A Business’s Own Privacy Officer
An internal Privacy Officer is elected to spearhead compliance for the organization. While you are able to get help from other external organizations, it is a requirement of HIPAA to have someone internally with the formal designation of Privacy Officer. But unlike other legislation like GDPR, there is no specification as to the credentials of this individual. This privacy officer is someone who has the authority in the organization to implement the correct organizational changes to safeguard not only the provider’s data but yours as well.
2. Privacy Policies
These are essentially the internal policies the organization follows when handling any sort of protected health information (PHI). These rules can be anything from who has access to this information as well as how that information is handled.
3. Security Procedures
Security Procedures are often grouped together with Privacy policies, and while they sound similar, they are both completely separate requirements of HIPAA. The Security Procedures are going to be practical ways that privacy is maintained. Think of security as more of the defense. This can be anything from strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, or encryption. Essentially anything that secures and protects the PHI is going to fall under the security procedures.
4. Annual HIPAA Training
An annual HIPAA training is an important part of dealing with a service provider with HIPAA compliance and is often one of the most important on the employee level. Keeping a record of these training is important and ensuring that every employee who comes in contact with PHI has gone through adequate training reduces the risk of a breach from human error considerably.
5. Annual Risk Assessment
Another major benefit of HIPAA-compliant companies is the annual Risk Assessments or whenever a major change to the organization occurs. These risk assessments serve as a sort of re-evaluation of internal practices to ensure what we are saying and what we are doing is actually being practiced as well as making sure ample policies and procedures are in place to reduce risk. While a breach can always occur, these risk assessments serve as a way of showing that the organization has taken HIPAA compliance seriously and can help to mitigate further fines in the event of a breach or audit.
6. Established Breach Notification Protocol
Finally, an important benefit in HIPAA-compliant businesses is an established internal breach notification protocol in the event that your organization does have a breach. This internal reporting system is basically an efficient way of notifying internal key employees of the breach occurring so that an adequate response can take place and further data exposure is prevented. Ultimately, no organization ever wants to have a breach occur but it is always important to have a plan in place in the event of one occurring.
Because Booth & Partners is now HIPAA Compliant, it means that we are now equipped and ready to handle every security and privacy protocol for our clients better than ever. Not only that, but our compliance also means that we are more than prepared against any data breaches that might occur in any situation. These may seem like a common requirement for businesses but you would be surprised at how a lot of businesses fail to do this standard.
If you’re looking to partner with a HIPAA-compliant company that can help you build a high-performing team, contact us.