What Is HIPAA Compliance And How Can Network Management Software Help You Achieve It?
The U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 set the national regulations for protecting confidential patient health data and provided guidelines regarding the privacy and integrity of electronic protected health information (ePHI). The primary standards of HIPAA are the Privacy and Security Rules. The HIPAA Privacy Rule deals with the protection of health information held by covered entities and give certain rights to patients regarding their health data. The HIPAA Security Rule sets administrative, technical, and physical standards for electronic Protected Health Information that need to assure its confidentiality, protection and integrity. Achieving compliance with the HIPAA regulations can be successfully done with the use of network management software that can mitigate the compliance risk, tighten security and provide the necessary reports to prove compliance to auditing organizations.
Among the covered entities of HIPAA are healthcare insurance companies, healthcare clearinghouses and healthcare providers who electronically maintain health information (such as doctors, clinics, dentists, psychologists, pharmacies). The penalties and fines for violating the HIPAA regulations range from monetary to potential imprisonment for criminal offenses. The civil penalties vary between $100 and $50,000 per violation whereas the criminal penalties – between $50,000 and $250,000; imprisonment - from 1 to 10 years. For example, the entity will be fined not more than $250,000, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
There are four technical safeguards that are enlisted in the Security Rule – implementation of access control, audit control, integrity control and transmission security. The access control safeguard requires implementation of technical policies and procedures that allow only authorized staff to view specific health data. The audit control safeguard, on the other hand, requires implementation of software (hardware and/or procedural mechanisms) to record and examine the access to ePHI. These requirements imply that each employee should have a specific username and password in the organizational system and have a predetermined access to information. In order to assure proper monitoring and control over the network, event log monitoring and user monitoring can be applied so that you can track and record who did what in your system and event prevent any misuses of ePHI. Having an audit log will let the organization to track all accessed data and provide the necessary audit data to prove compliance.
The integrity control safeguard focuses on the prevention of improper altering and destruction of ePHI while the transmission security requires protection of ePHI from unauthorized access during electronic transmissions (such as email delivery. If e-mails or any transmission information are at risk of being accessed by unauthorized organizations, then an encryption feature should be considered when considering a compliance monitoring tool. Last but not least part of the HIPAA guidelines is the requirement for availability of patient information. Therefore backing up healthcare information becomes essential to keeping retrieved copies of data when it is lost or damaged.
The growing public concern about privacy and security of personal health data demands that healthcare organizations become even more protective over their patient’s medical information and keep any healthcare errors and data breaches to a minimum level. Choosing the right compliance monitoring software and using it correctly is an integral part of achieving this and should be considered a priority to organizational management.
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