For healthcare professionals, HIPAA compliance can be a confusing and overwhelming law to understand.
It’s lengthy and vague – conceptual in nature. That makes understanding HIPAA much more difficult when trying to figure out how you need to move forward, legally, to ensure your organization is operating under the law.
You’ll probably find yourself asking, “What is reasonable and appropriate? How does my company decide which safeguards to focus on?” Or, you might be simply wondering, “What is HIPAA, anyway?” (If you find yourself asking the last question, read this blog post.)
At Prominic, we are well-versed in HIPAA compliance, its requirements, and how to tailor our solutions to each client. Based on our experience, we’ve come up with three questions all organizations should ask themselves when looking for an answer to HIPAA compliance.
Many organizations attempt to “tack on” a HIPAA compliance solution to their already-existing business practices. However, the key to building a secure environment, capable of safeguarding your client’s private information and insulating your organization from hefty fines, doesn’t lie within the pages of HIPAA or any other regulation. In fact, the best way to approach building a HIPAA compliance program is to start with industry best practices.
What Are Industry Best Practices?
In the healthcare industry, there are defined measures that are considered “best practice” for maintaining the standard of care you are able to provide to patients. Organizations should strive to ensure that they are implementing these practices in everything that they do.
For example, examining how data is being handled at each stage, how your organization is enforcing and monitoring employee training, and reviewing how carefully your documentation is occurring are practices you can audit. How is your organization doing? How do you compare to the industry best practices?
How Do You Compare With the Industry?
If your organization’s not looking too good, obviously you’ll want to seek out help and find a HIPAA compliance solution. Many organizations (as mentioned above) think “tacking on” a secure environment will solve their problems. However, something as important and complex as a secure environment can’t just be “tacked on” to an organization. It has to be built from the ground up, with careful planning and insight into your organization’s operations. In order to achieve an end product of an efficient and effective system for safeguarding data, you first have to build a strong foundation.
For those organizations that value the quality of developing a well-planned solution not only have been pleasantly surprised, but have seen easier integration with new HIPAA regulations and increased flexibility in adapting their existing system to new rules.
Working to achieve industry best practices will cover the vast majority of the compliance objectives in HIPAA and will create a safer and secure environment. It will allow your organization to begin closing the gap between your policies and HIPAA requirements.
Your Solution: Short-Term vs. Long-Term
While it might be tempting to adopt a short-term “good enough” approach, doing so will be costly in the long run. Your costs will include acquiring additional equipment, hiring extra staff and taking time out to train an entire organization, among others. This adds up in a hurry. Not to mention, by implementing a short-term solution you are at high risk of a HIPAA compliance breach meaning more costs in fines. Should you be guilty of a breach, you will most likely be obligated to develop the long-term, solid environment you should have in the first place.
Why not do it right the first time?
Remember: HIPAA is conceptual in nature. It is meant to be both scalable and flexible. What is reasonable and appropriate for one organization might not be for another. Covered entities and business associates alike should focus on the intent of the regulation, to safeguard individual health information from inappropriate uses and disclosures. Every compliance-related decision you make should be able to stand up to one simple test:
Can you look an HHS auditor with a straight face and tell them that you believed what you were doing was both reasonable and appropriate?
If the answer is “yes” then you are at least off to a good start.
If the answer is “no” then you need to rethink your approach.