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How to be HIPAA Compliant with your Data

HIPAA Compliant Data Management

Ensuring that the data you manage is HIPAA compliant is one of the biggest requirements when working with sensitive PHI (Protected Health Information). This constantly evolving process needs your organization to follow a specific set of guidelines and regulations to ensure that no PHI is shared or public. To better understand these regulations and ensure that your data management is compliant, please take a look at the information provided below.

What does HIPAA mean?

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Whether youíre working in Healthcare Insurane or not, HIPPA is an essential directive that can be applied across all industries. HIPAA is a federal law that requires national standards to protect patient health information from being disclosed without the patient's consent or knowledge, and was expanded to also enforce the privacy of their PHI (Protected Health Information). So if your business deals with storing or maintaining copies of a patients PHI, then you must follow HIPAA regulations to stay compliant.

When it comes to the digital world, there are many organizations that might interact with or handle patient PHI. Because of this, HIPAA was expanded further to cover administrative operations and requires the HHS (Department of Health & Human Services), and related organizations to follow them.

Whether you are working in a hospital, in the insurance industry, or in the IT field, you most likely have a backup solution in place. Before, after, and even during a backup, there are two rules you must be aware of:

The Privacy Rule covers how PHI can be used and disclosed. The main goal of this rule is to establish a set of standards that address the use and disclosure of PHI.

The Security Rule covers individuals that are covered, what information is considered protected, and what safeguards must be in place to ensure protection of electronic PHI.

The HIPAA simplification form lists a lot of the rules that must be followed to maintain compliance. Not all of these rules may apply to you or your industry, however, one that will apply when working with PHI is the Security Standards General Rules on page 63 of the simplification form.

Some of these general rules include:

  • Ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all electronic PHI and any associates that might have access to the data.
  • Protect against any reasonably anticipated threats or hazards to the security or integrity of PHI.

It is important to understand those two rules when choosing a suitable data management solution.

Third-Parties

Grabbing any popular data management solution that you find could land you in hot water, especially if they arenít following all HIPAA guidelines. The largest issue when using a Third-Party is that you relinquish control of your data at one end to an independent party. In this case, you donít know who has access to that data or what they could do with it. Using this method could lead to a breach of HIPPA regulations.

Using a Public Cloud storage provider to store or manage your backups can also pose similar issues. Without having control over the destination, you cannot confidently maintain your compliance. Audit logs are a tool that many solutions take advantage of. Audit logs maintain a report of who viewed the data or used the software. However, how do you confirm that the audit logs are accurate?


Here is one example to help you understand security management:

Youíre a doctor and you keep your patients information in your locked file cabinet.

If using a third-party, instead of putting that document in your locked file cabinet, you give it to someone else who will take it to their office and put it in their file cabinet. They might tell you itís locked and they didnít look at the information, but how can you be sure?

This same concept applies to the digital world and HIPAA.

One way to ensure confidentiality while protecting yourself against reasonably anticipated threats is through encryption. There are multiple types of encryption, however, it is important to both encrypt while the data is at rest, and while the data is being transferred. By doing this, you drastically reduce the risk of an unauthorized party gaining anything from the PHI.

The same concepts also apply to document sharing. If you have PHI that you need to share with your patient or client, how do you ensure its security while transferring? One solution is to look for a specific type of encryption, End-to-End encryption (E2E Encryption). E2E encryption ensures that both the sender and the recipient are the only ones to view the data in unencrypted format.

Doís and Doníts

DON'T DO
DONíT email PHI in an encrypted format. DO ensure that you are utilizing End-To-End Encryption when necessary to securely send emails containing PHI.
DONíT utilize a third-party where you cannot be fully in-control of your data. DO maintain Proper Audit logs and ensure their validity for anyone accessing any systems or programs that contain PHI.
DONíT leave PHI on an open system. DO secure machines that store or are involved in handling PHI, and encrypted the data if possible.

Simplifying this process and how to eliminate risks easily

There are steps you can take to minimize risks and ensure that your side is compliant, but what about the other side?

One solution is utilizing software that takes steps to eliminate the risks, such as private-cloud solutions. These software products give you full control over the entire process of their solution. Users control the machine itís installed on and they never receive any data from your end. With a private-cloud solution, you can maintain full access controls, eliminate privacy concerns, and send and receive data securely.

Summary

Regardless of what industry you are working in, it is essential to understand HIPAA and its rules to ensure your private information remains protected. The best way to secure this information is to require the use of end-to-end encryption, avoid using third parties, and keep machines that store PHI protected.

We want to assist you with finding the perfect solution to ensure all of the above requirements are met. If you are already using data management products and need to be HIPAA compliant, what concerns do you have with your current solutions?


Created on: Sep 15, 2020
Last updated on: Oct 19, 2020

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