By Marty Puranik
The health sector has invested heavily in technology and presented innovations to provide care for people, which leads to greater regulation. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is the set of compliance rules that healthcare and healthcare-related organizations must follow in order to ensure the protection of digital information involved in their business as well as patients.
No entity should forget about the potential consequences that can harm healthcare organizations that lose a patient’s confidential information. Or the damage caused by improperly sending a confidential information bulletin to third parties. It is also becoming more common for information to be stolen during a cyber invasion, a result of the advancing era of corporate digitization.
One might think that HIPAA compliance is expensive and complicated, but this does not have to be the case. There are a few tips and choices that companies pursue which will help them reach compliance without breaking the bank.
Online Staff Training
Going for expensive and top-notch software has little value if your staff is not properly trained and informed about the importance of HIPAA and its requirements. With this in mind, a good place to start is ensuring that your staff receives online training as this is an affordable option which also helps to reduce the insider threat.
In addition, these training services usually have other useful features like tracking the validity of the training, the necessity of taking refreshment courses, and so on, which are done automatically without the need of the companies or employees to monitor these aspects.
A report by Verizon showed that in 2018, 58% of health-related data breach incidents involved employees. If we note that the overall average across all sectors is 27%, then it becomes clear just how important it is to have well-trained staff, and how ignoring or minimizing this issue can lead to larger problems.
Go for Expertise
With HIPAA compliance comes the need for risk assessments and specific documentation. For companies that are still not HIPAA compliant, and therefore lack strong knowledge about the entire process, the best option is to go for a vendor that has expertise in this field.
A vendor can provide documentation boilerplates and also perform risk assessments. This provides convenience for companies and can also save money, as it will likely be cheaper to go for these services instead of spending your own resources to have people research and perform all the needed actions.
Look for less expensive hosting options
All companies who handle information online need to have a powerful hosting solution – and, because we are focusing on HIPAA, the hosting should be compliant with this set of rules and regulations.
This is also an area where some money can be saved, as there are many options to choose from. In reality, each company is different, so the best practice would be for companies to do a complete analysis of what they need, and what each hosting plan has to offer.
By doing this, companies can avoid spending money on features and functionalities they do not need and will not use, which immediately results in important savings that can be applied elsewhere.
However, remember that the compliance of a hosting provider is really more than just transferring files to regulated clouds or local storage. It means implementing a healthcare hosting checklist designed to achieve full HIPAA compliance.
Try to predict mistakes before they happen
All data handled by a medical and hospital service should not only be secure against loss but also secure against data corruption. One of the main ways to ensure data is not compromised in the event of an accident is to back it up regularly.
Data should be backed up off-premises so that in the event of an accident like a medical facility fire, data backup is not destroyed either. Antivirus programs should also be installed on all computers to ensure that data is not corrupted or destroyed by computer viruses.
Adopting these kinds of preventive actions will reduce the number of incidents while also reducing the amount of money spent, both on the process of recovering from the issue itself, but also by avoiding the possible fines that may arise from it.
Use mistakes as learning opportunities
Mistakes happen, and when they do, be sure to make them a learning experience – particularly in the case of small or medium companies, as incidents affecting less than 500 patients do not need to be reported.
For example, if someone says HIPAA-protected information out loud, take the opportunity to remind all staff that this sensitive information is protected and, therefore, cannot be shared like that.
Another common example is sending confidential documents to the wrong recipient. In this case, arrange new verification mechanisms with the entire staff. Use multiple verifications of the recipient, and check if the document is the correct one and for the right patient. Also, delegate someone to verify the process.
Some of the lessons that can be learned from these mistakes are sometimes as valuable as full-fledged training, and they are virtually inexpensive. This makes them a very important and handy tool that companies can use to their advantage.
Marty Puranik co-founded Atlantic.Net from his dorm room at the University of Florida in 1994. As CEO and President of Atlantic.Net, one of the first Internet Service Providers in America, Marty grew the company from a small ISP to a large regional player in the region, while observing America’s regulatory environment limit competition and increase prices on consumers. To keep pace with a changing industry, over the years he has led Atlantic.Net through the acquisition of 16 Internet companies, tripling the company’s revenues and establishing customer relationships in more than 100 countries. Providing cutting-edge cloud hosting before the mainstream did, Atlantic.Net has expanded to seven data centers in three countries, with a fourth pending.