HIPAA Compliance and IT Security/Data Protection

Protected health information is something that healthcare-related companies need to respect. Public institutions have always been aware of this and the creation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, is the strongest proof.

If you are part of the insurance and healthcare industry, it becomes paramount to be HIPAA compliant for several reasons. IT security has to be one of your top priorities and make the needed investments in order to keep PHI always safe.

In the following lines, you will learn what is HIPAA and why it is so important. At Level Safety Consulting, we want our clients to be aware of where they are and how we can help them.

What is HIPAA?

Let’s begin with the very basics. HIPAA, which stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was created to set the standards for keeping sensitive patient data encrypted and safe. It was enacted by the United States Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton back in 1996.

Before that year, it was notably hard for people to switch insurance companies, mainly because of the medical records and the difficulty they represented to be transmitted between organizations. The portability used to take a long time and it came with major administrative complications.

HIPAA changed this by implementing four different rules that work to protect privacy during the administrative and portability processes. These are the Privacy Rule, Security Rule, Enforcement Rule, and Breach Notification Rule. The priority here is to maintain PHI and EPHI always safe.

What is PHI?

PHI, which stands for Protected Health Information, is a very common term that is widely present in both HIPAA and healthcare applications. Any piece of information stored in an individual’s medical record can be considered as PHI.

This information may include the conversations between healthcare professionals about the case and treatment, billing information, tests results, notes made during appointments with a doctor, physical or electronic drug prescriptions, and everything related to the patient.

The Security Rule

When it comes to being HIPAA compliant in IT security/data protection, the most relevant part of this act is the Security Rule. This rule outlines the standards that will allow organizations and professionals to properly treat PHI that is created, received, maintained, or transmitted through electronic channels.

At the same time, the Security Rule has three main parts that define everything that an organization must accomplish in order to be HIPAA compliant. These parts are:

  • Administrative Safeguards
  • Technical Safeguards
  • Physical Safeguards

This is where the team behind Level Safety Consulting can support you. We take care of the needed safeguards and make your organization to be HIPAA compliant. When the time of public audit finally comes, you will be ready.

Why Becoming HIPAA Compliant?

If your business activity involves the handling, storing, and transmitting of PHI between organizations, being HIPAA compliant is demanded by law. Both covered entity and business associate figures are fit to become complaint according to this act.

Now, there is a stimulating reason behind becoming HIPAA compliant: the fines. These penalties are incredibly high and can go up to $1.5 million per year if the violations or records accumulate. A single penalty can go up to $50,000, for instance.

Looking for “provisional” HIPAA certifications will not do the job for your organization. The Office for Civil Rights from the Department of Health and Human Services is the federal governing body that has the exclusive power to determine compliance. In this sense, private organizations cannot create pseudo certifications that the Department of Health and Human Services would consider as valid.