Common Challenges of HIPAA Compliance

Updated on May 6, 2024

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law enacted in 1996 with the core objective of providing a national standard for the protection and safeguarding of certain private and sensitive health-related information of patients and preventing this information from being shared with third parties without the patient’s knowledge and consent.

Large healthcare organizations usually have the capacity to implement robust security architecture through investments in layered security controls, like firewalls, intrusion detection, antivirus software, and a host of other solutions to comply with this law. However, the one area where lapses can often occur in these organizations is when the human factor is introduced. Smaller organizations, on the other hand, often do not have access to these resources, while still potentially being liable to breach HIPAA laws due to the human element.

Challenges of HIPAA Compliance

1. Lack of Awareness and Understanding

Many organizations struggle with HIPAA compliance due to a lack of awareness and understanding among employees, including and especially home health aides. This can lead to inadvertent violations of HIPAA regulations.

To overcome this challenge, organizations should prioritize comprehensive training programs for all staff members involved in handling protected health information (PHI). 

Regular updates and refresher courses can ensure that employees understand their roles and responsibilities regarding HIPAA compliance.

2. Limited Resources

HIPAA compliance sometimes requires dedicated resources in terms of both time and finances. Small healthcare organizations or those with limited budgets may find it challenging to allocate sufficient resources to ensure ongoing compliance.

One way to overcome this challenge is to leverage technology solutions that streamline compliance processes and reduce administrative burdens.

Additionally, outsourcing certain compliance tasks to third-party experts can be a cost-effective solution for organizations with limited internal resources.

3. Changing/Evolving Technology

The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, with new technologies emerging regularly. While these advancements can improve patient care and efficiency, they can also pose challenges for HIPAA compliance.

Organizations must stay abreast of the latest technological developments and ensure that their systems and processes remain compliant with HIPAA regulations. 

Regular risk assessments and IT audits can help identify potential vulnerabilities and ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place.

4. Employee Turnover

Employee turnover is a common challenge in any industry, but it can be particularly problematic for healthcare organizations striving for HIPAA compliance.

When employees leave an organization, they may take knowledge of HIPAA policies and procedures with them, increasing the risk of non-compliance.

To address this challenge, organizations should implement robust onboarding and offboarding processes that include thorough training on HIPAA compliance for new hires and exit interviews to ensure departing employees understand their obligations regarding PHI.

5. Vendor Management

Many healthcare organizations rely on third-party vendors to provide various services, such as electronic health record systems, medical billing software, or home healthcare CRM. This means that these vendors might often have access to PHI, making them potential points of vulnerability for HIPAA compliance.

To mitigate this risk, organizations should carefully vet vendors before entering into contracts and ensure that they have appropriate safeguards in place to protect PHI. Contracts should include provisions requiring vendors to comply with HIPAA regulations and undergo regular audits to verify compliance.

Additionally, organizations should establish clear communication channels with vendors to address any compliance concerns promptly.

In Conclusion

Today’s healthcare providers handle medical and personal information for millions of patients. They are also under increasing pressure to store, share and disseminate this data or information as efficiently, effectively and safely as possible, but doing so in ways that correctly follow all the laws and regulations that govern how and when PHI (protected health information) can be shared and disseminated.

The majority of healthcare providers share patient information using both a federated model (a combination of many different software systems, each at a hospital or healthcare provider, trusted to access PHI) and authorized gateways such as state HIEs (Health Information Exchange).

Given this scenario, it behooves all healthcare organizations to make the necessary investments to be compliant with HIPAA laws, as not doing so risks them being slapped with various fines and sanctions, the cost of which may be greater than the cost of compliance.

Anna Dykshteyn Headshot
Anna Dykshteyn

Anna Dykshteyn is the president and administrator of City Choice Home Care Services. She has more than 15 years of hands-on experience in the home healthcare industry, has a degree in Health Information Management, and is also licensed to operate by the New York State Department of Health.