HIPAA Compliance Best Practices for Physicians and Hospital Facilities

HIPAA compliance best practices for physicians and hospitals requires a dedicated effort by select individuals for ultimately ensuring the safety and security of information systems that store, process, and transmit Protected Health Information (PHI). The digital world we live in is full of threats – that we can all agree on – which is why it’s so fundamentally important to get serious about HIPAA compliance, which begins by implementing the following best practices, courtesy of Flat Iron Technologies, LLC, founders of hipaapoliciesandprocedures.com.

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Becoming compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for both physicians and hospitals requires comprehensive documentation – policies, procedures, risk assessment material, security awareness training, essential HIPAA forms, and much more – documentation offered by Flat Iron Technologies, LLC for download with our HIPAA Security & Privacy Compliance Toolkits (HSPCT). Regardless of how small – or how big your facility is – the HIPAA Security & Privacy Compliance Toolkits (HSPCT) are essential for creating all necessary HIPAA documentation, ultimately saving you hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on costly compliance measures. With documentation that’s easy-to-use and incredibly comprehensive, HIPAA compliance just became that much easier, so visit hipaapoliciesandprocedures.com to learn more.

What Physicians and Hospitals Need to Know about HIPAA

Create an Asset Inventory for Information Systems: Can you honestly state that you know exactly what information systems you have in your environment, where they are located, what they are, their respective host names, and other essential information? If not, and that’s not a big surprise as most companies fail in this area, then it’s time to put together a comprehensive asset inventory. After all, you can’t protect what you don’t know you have, and as for HIPAA, knowing the “who, what, when, where, and why” of your information systems is absolutely critical, no question about it.

So what makes a good asset inventory list? It’s a list that includes essential information about your information systems – specifically – the type of system, host name, serial number, location, intended use, relevant IP address, and other essential data. Furthermore, you don’t have to spend large sums of money on costly asset inventory software, just take some time and customize a spreadsheet and you’re good to go. After you’ve successfully captured all essential information, it’s important to keep the list relevant and accurate, which means assigning the role of upkeep for the asset inventory to a designate person or group within your information technology department.

Know Where Hard-copy PHI resides: Sure, we live in a digital world and paper based documentation is slowing fading away, but even with that said, companies are still storing Protected Health Information (PHI). Thus, such documentation must be stored securely, destroyed via approved methods, such as cross-shredding, with various elements of PHI blacked out as necessary. The move to electronic records is in full swing, but it’s going to take some time, therefore, ensuring the safety and security of hard-copy PHI is highly critical, no question about it.

Start with a HIPAA Scoping & Readiness Assessment: Want to gain a true understanding of the merits of HIPAA compliance and what it takes to really be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996? Then start with a HIPAA scoping & readiness assessment for both the HIPAA Security Rule and the HIPAA Privacy Rule. You’ll need to obtain essential checklists for helping you through this process – both a HIPAA Security Rule Checklist, along with a HIPAA Privacy Rule Checklist – after all, you need to know exactly what you’re up against in terms of mandated HIPAA policies, procedures, and related processes. Look at a HIPAA scoping & readiness assessment as an essential element of truly understanding the “who, what, when, where, and why” of HIPAA compliance. You can also hire a HIPAA consultant to assist you, but honestly, the checklists should be more than enough for helping you gain a strong understanding of HIPAA. Specifically, you’ll be able to determine scoping boundaries, missing documentation, along with other gaps and deficiencies that exist within your control environment.

Undertake Necessary Technical Remediation: Compliance with HIPAA also requires implementing various security tools and protocols for helping ensure the safety and security of Protected Health Information (PHI). From anti-virus, encryption, strong password rules, and more, HIPAA is all about using today’s security best practices. And while the actual HIPAA Security Rule mandates are now decades old, they’re still highly relevant, ultimately requiring organizations to adhere to standardized information security guidelines that really have not changed over the years. They may very well change or be enhanced one day, but for now, what we know are the requirements that were put into law in the mid 1990’s.

Review the Security Rule requirements one at a time: One-by-one, you’ll need to ensure that every one of the HIPAA Security Rule mandates are in place, complete with supporting documentation (i.e., HIPAA policies and procedures) that discusses the relevancy of the actual requirement, and that the control itself is in place and functioning from a technical perspective. While there are still a number of controls deemed “Addressable” for HIPAA compliance, that seems to be an afterthought in today’s world as what was once considered “Addressable” in the mid 1990’s is nothing more than a standard best practice in today’s world of cybersecurity. Our HIPAA Security & Privacy Compliance Toolkits (HSPCT) come complete with a HIPAA Security Rule Checklist & Readiness Assessment for helping properly assess all required HIPAA information security requirements. Visit hipaapoliciesandprocedures.com to learn more.

Determine Privacy Rule requirements as Necessary: Physician’s offices and hospitals without question have an explicit mandate for protecting a patient’s/consumer’s PHI, which also means adhering to the HIPAA Privacy Rule provisions. You’ll need to determine they types of information that can and cannot be disclosed, with what parties, and other essential information. Once such measures have been agreed to, you’ll then need to document them with well-written, comprehensive HIPAA Privacy Rule policies and procedures. Our HIPAA Security & Privacy Compliance Toolkits (HSPCT) come complete with easy-to-use and implement HIPAA Privacy Rule policy templates. Visit flatirontech.org to learn more.

Develop Policies and Procedures: Documentation is absolutely critical for physicians and hospitals when it comes to complying with HIPAA, particularly with both the HIPAA Security Rule and HIPAA Privacy Rule mandates. In short, policies and procedures need to be developed that map directly to the HIPAA requirements, which range from information security best practices to privacy provisions for keeping PHI safe and secure. The amount of time and effort needed for developing HIPAA policies and procedures can be quite staggering indeed, and it’s why developing documentation using pre-populated templates specific to the HIPAA requirements – such as the HIPAA Security & Privacy Compliance Toolkits (HSPCT) – is a great idea.

You may very well have information security and other operational specific policies and procedures in place, but ask yourself the following questions: Are they relevant and current? Have they been authored to map directly to the requirements for HIPAA? When is the last time somebody actually took the time to review the material? If you’ve answered “no” or ae unsure to any of these questions, then it’s a good idea to start over with comprehensive, easy-to-use templates, such as those offered for instant download today from hipaapoliciesandprocedures.com. Writing policies can take a lot of time – no question about it – so use our template instead.

Put in place a Monitoring Program for all Relevant Third Parties: As a physician or hospital, are you utilizing the services of other businesses that could impact the safety and security of your assets, and ultimately, the safety and security of confidential healthcare data, such as PHI? If so, then you’ll need to put in a place initiatives for monitoring the internal controls of such providers. This is fast becoming a real concern in today’s compliance world, and for good reason, as almost every business is relying on another organization for some type of service.

Find that internal HIPAA “Champion”: Becoming HIPAA compliant for physician’s offices and hospitals requires a huge commitment from everyone within an organization, but more than that, you need to find and appoint internal personnel to help advocate and move HIPAA along – you need an internal HIPAA champion. A compliance person or some other type of internal auditor or legal counsel would be a wise choice. In truth, anyone with the ability and desire to help in complying with North America’s most comprehensive and complex healthcare ruling would be fine. Word to the wise – it can be a tough and demanding job, so find somebody who’s willing to make the tough decisions.

Perform a Risk Assessment: One of the most fundamentally important requirements for becoming HIPAA compliant is performing an annual risk assessment. Regardless if you’re a Covered Entity (CE) or a Business Associate (BA), every healthcare organization of all sizes, shapes, and colors needs to perform such an exercise. Sure, it’s a mandate, but forget about that and think of the real value of undertaking a risk assessment. You’ll be able to identify gaps and weaknesses within one’s control environment, identify critical risk and threats facing your business, and what controls to put in place for mitigating or hopefully removing such issues.

Bottom line, a risk assessment is good for business, is a strict HIPAA compliance mandates, so performing one is essential, no question about it. Our HIPAA Security & Privacy Compliance Toolkits (HSPCT) include a comprehensive and easy-to-use risk assessment, so visit hipaapoliciesandprocedures.com to learn more.

Implement Security Awareness Training: Do you train your employees on today’s essential security issues, threats, and breast practices? If not, now’s the time as security awareness training is a requirement for HIPAA, but also a best practice every business should be performing. Training your employees on critical security topics is one of the most fundamentally important initiatives any business can do, regardless of industry, size, or location. Visit hipaapoliciesandprocedures.com to learn more about our comprehensive security awareness training documents, which include both a PPT presentation, along with an in-depth security awareness training manual.

Get acquainted with the concept of “Continuous Monitoring”: What’s “Continuous Monitoring”, it’s the initiatives undertaken for ensuring your internal controls are assessed, changed, and ultimately enhanced on a regular basis. Becoming HIPAA compliant is one thing, but continuing to ensure compliance is being met is another, hence the reason for continuously monitoring one’s internal controls. Remember that HIPAA compliance for physicians and hospitals is a moving target, there’s no one-and-done scenario, so ensuring you have applicable personnel in place for monitoring such controls is absolutely critical.
Stay abreast of current HIPAA news and regulations: Being in the know is a good thing in life, and especially when it comes to HIPAA, so take the time to read up on industry news and what’s going on in the world of healthcare and HIPAA compliance. You can subscribe to any number of forums and alert boards, or simply set up a Google news notification with phrases such as HIPAA, healthcare, etc. There’s something new in the world of healthcare literally every day, so staying informed is absolutely critical.

Save Thousands on HIPAA Compliance with our Toolkits

Becoming compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) can be a tremendous undertaking for physician’s offices and hospitals – no question about it – and documentation is one of the most demanding mandates that needs to be in place. It’s why healthcare entities all throughout North America are downloading the HIPAA Security & Privacy Compliance Toolkits (HSPCT) at hipaapoliciesandprocedures.com.

Why spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on policy writing from consultants, when rapid compliance for physician’s offices and hospitals can be obtained with our industry leading documentation – the HIPAA Security & Privacy Compliance Toolkits (HSPCT). We also offer comprehensive consulting services for HIPAA, beginning with a scoping & readiness assessment, independent third-party assessments, assistance with obtaining vendor tools, and much more.