Whether you’re someone brand new to the healthcare industry or have been around for a while, chances are you have come across HIPAA — the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA is fundamental to the secure storage and usage of patients’ protected health information (PHI) and was signed into US federal law in 1996 by then-President Clinton. If you handle PHI and are a healthcare provider or a provider of services to the healthcare industry, you need to be well-versed in how to comply with HIPAA.
If you’re not a lawyer, HIPAA’s complicated set of laws and regulations may be challenging to comprehend. Since HIPAA has undergone numerous updates since the initial law took effect in 1996, many healthcare and compliance professionals continue to have ongoing questions.
So, we’ve compiled a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that addresses some of the most vexing questions about HIPAA. Our goal here is to provide you with accurate information that you can leverage to understand this intricate compliance framework better.
Let’s get to it!
What is HIPAA Compliance?
HIPAA stands for the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which is a piece of US federal legislation.
One of HIPAA’s main goals is to preserve and secure patients’ protected health information (PHI), which includes any personally identifiable health information such as names, email addresses, and social security numbers (SSNs).
HIPAA does this by embracing several core principles in its rules: the security rule, the privacy rule, and the breach notification rule. Each of these regulations contains a range of criteria designed to guarantee that PHI is kept private and safe.
For further background information about how HIPAA works, along with its relevance, benefits, and concepts, check out one of our previously published posts here.
5 Most Frequently Asked Questions about HIPAA Compliance
- What businesses must comply with HIPAA laws?
Any healthcare organization that handles electronic processing, storage, transmission, or receipt of claims, remittances, or medical records.
Two different types of organizations are subject to HIPAA.
The covered entities (CEs) come first. These include doctors, clinics, and hospitals that directly produce PHI. Additional entities are health care clearinghouses and health insurance companies.
Business Associates (BAs) are the second category. Business associates are people or entities that offer services to covered entities that involve the use or disclosure of protected health information. Numerous businesses offering services including claim processing, telemedicine communications, data processing, backup, and mobile health applications can be included in the the BA category. Each BA must sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA), which must be re-evaluated yearly, with the CE to which the BA is rendering services,
- What is Protected Health Information (PHI)?
PHI is information gathered from a person by a covered entity that relates to that person’s past, present, or future health or condition and that either identifies the person or about which there is reason to believe that it can be used to locate, identify or contact that person. That information is what must be protected.
- What can happen if a healthcare individual/organization is not HIPAA-compliant?
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and state attorneys general both have the authority to fine you for HIPAA violations. The HHS may audit your firm and levy fines of up to $50,000 per day for each infringement.
You are required by law to alert the HHS, your patients, and the media if there is a security breach that involves more than 500 records. This might bring your company into the public eye in a highly undesirable way and seriously harm brand equity. A recent survey found that 76% of patients said they would cease doing business with a company that violated their privacy.
- What is the difference between being HIPAA-ready and being HIPAA-compliant?
Software and other technology used by the healthcare sector that make it simpler to comply with HIPAA requirements are typically referred to as HIPAA-ready. Clinics, urgent care centers, healthcare maintenance organizations (HMOs), nursing homes, pharmacies, dentists, hospitals, clearinghouses, and insurance providers that abide by HIPAA rules are referred to as being “HIPAA-compliant.”
With that said, a lot of goods are advertised as being “HIPAA-compliant”; nevertheless, compliance is actually achieved not by the product itself but rather by the rules, procedures, settings, and security measures implemented by people and institutions. Products marked as “HIPAA-ready” or “HIPAA-compliant” indicate that they have one or more features that make them compatible with use in a compliance environment.
- How do professionals become HIPAA compliant?
Professionals must satisfy certain conditions in order to become HIPAA compliant. These consist of:
- Performing yearly self-audits
- Implementing continuous monitoring and remediation of compliance issues
- Putting HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Policies and Procedures into practice
- Conducting HIPAA training for employees
- Signing contracts with business partners (a.k.a. business associates)
- Putting in place an incident response plan
HIPAA Compliance with Akitra!
Establishing trust is a crucial competitive differentiator when courting new SaaS businesses in today’s era of data breaches and compromised privacy. Customers and partners want assurances that the organizations with whom they do business are doing everything possible to prevent disclosing sensitive data and putting them at risk. Compliance certification fills that need.
Akitra offers an industry-leading, AI-powered Compliance Automation platform for SaaS companies. Using automated evidence collection and continuous monitoring, together with a full suite of customizable policies and controls as a compliance foundation, our service helps customers become certified for HIPAA, along with other frameworks like SOC 1, SOC 2, ISO 27001, 27017, 27018, PCI DSS, GDPR and NIST 800-53. Our compliance and security experts will also provide you with the customized guidance you need to confidently navigate the end-to-end compliance process.
The benefits of our solution include enormous savings in time, human resources, and money — including discounted audit fees with our audit firm partners. Customers achieve compliance certification fast and cost-effectively, stay continuously compliant as they grow, and can become certified under additional frameworks using a single compliance automation platform.
Build customer trust. Choose Akitra TODAY!