The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996 with the main intentions of protecting employees and their families from healthcare costs when they are out of jobs or change them, and to have a pan American set of standards with regard to the electronic transfer of Protected Health Information (PHI), as well as for nationally uniform provider, health insurance plan and employer identifiers.
Employers and healthcare providers are now at increased burden of ensuring compliance with the requirements set out in this Act. It is primarily on the shoulders of employers that the burden of protecting the privacy of the electronic information of their employee rests. A data breach is taken very seriously by the law authorities. The punishment could include penalties and/or jail terms.
So, employers need to implement a strict set of methods to make sure that employees’ insurance and health data are protected. These are some of the ways by which they can avoid costly HIPAA compliance risks:
- One of the ways to avoid costly HIPAA compliance risks is to thoroughly understand the law in all its specifics and minute details. The HIPAA Security Rule establishes procedures and steps for the conduct of the role of a Security Officer, who is responsible for a host of core functions relating to the protection of HIPAA privacy of employees. The organization has to make sure it appoints the rightly qualified person for this position and also that she performs her tasks and duties in complete compliance with the regulatory requirements.
- Another way of avoiding costly HIPAA compliance risks is to put stringent controls at every stage and phase of the compliance program. Compliance with HIPAA regulations is not something that can be done at one stage and implemented across the board. It calls for continuous monitoring of all the activities associated with ensuring that data is protected. Updates are required from time to time.
- One more method to avoid costly HIPAA compliance risks is to put in place a system of continuous audits into the compliance program. An audit by a qualified professional puts checks and firewalls in place and ensures greater protection and compliance by the employer.
- Putting in place robust and transparent IT systems through the depth and breadth of the electronic systems is another of the ways to avoid costly HIPAA compliance risks. A good Management Information System (MIS) will ensure visibility across the IT system to help detect any errors or generate reports that the auditor might ask. It also helps them verify the level of their compliance program from time to time.
- Finally, to avoid costly HIPAA compliance risks, an organization can get its external vendors such as Business Associates to sign a PHI agreement. This will ensure that the data that needs to go out to these people are keep confidential, and that the Business Associate and Covered Entities are bound to maintain privacy and confidentiality of the data they deal with.