One constant challenge faced by physicians, hospitals, and private practices year after year is staying in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA.
While advances in technology have helped streamline medical recordkeeping and billing, it also continuously exposes patient data to an ever-evolving set of threats. As a result, full HIPAA compliance continues to be an uphill battle for a number of hospitals and practices.
HIPAA’s introduction in 1996 marked a concrete effort to prevent patient data from ending up in the wrong hands while improving patient health coverage. Since then, HIPAA’s mission evolved to keep pace with the numerous changes happening in today’s world.
Two milestones in that evolution included the formation of the 2003 HIPAA Privacy Rule and the 2005 HIPAA Security Rule. Both are designed to keep health care patient data safe and to encourage integrity and availability for electronically stored health care data.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 helped provide an enforcement mechanism for HIPAA. Fines for failure to comply reached $1.5 million. The introduction of the HIPAA Enforcement and Omnibus Rules also has had an impact on how the U.S. approaches the issue of unauthorized data access and usage, as well as the desired response to data breaches and other technological compromises.
What Health Care Providers Must Do
Physicians and health care providers must maintain the ability to protect themselves, their organizations, and their patients from the possibility of data breaches and its consequences.
HIPAA compliance in terms of health care technology also has its own basic set of requirements:
- Any data transmitted over the Internet must be encrypted.
- All data must be backed up and made available for recovery.
- This data should be available only to authorized personnel.
- The data cannot be tampered with or altered.
- Any data that’s being stored or archived should be encrypted.
- Data must have the capability to be permanently destroyed when it’s no longer needed.
HIPAA compliance technologies must be able to meet these milestones while providing maximum value to both health care personnel and patients.
Health care organizations must have a concrete plan for dealing with the difficult task of HIPAA compliance under tough situations. There also must be a risk-free method of providing patients with important records, and organizations must provide technological training for security personnel.