4 Important Data Security Tips to Help Ensure HIPAA Compliance

At the heart of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is the goal to protect personally identifiable information maintained by the health care and health insurance industries and to ensure it’s not breached or misused.

Anyone working in the health care industry, from doctor’s offices to physical therapy centers to pharmacies, is required to comply with the data security guidelines contained within HIPAA.

As with any type of data security regulation, common sense IT security measures and regular maintenance of your data security infrastructure will help keep you in compliance as well as protect your company from a data breach.

78% of healthcare workers lack proper data privacy preparedness.

How prepared is your company to defend against a data breach and stay in compliance with HIPAA?

Read on for an overview of what’s required of businesses that handle patient health information and tips on staying in compliance with data privacy regulations.

HIPAA Overview

Two terms that you’ll need to know to fully understand your requirements under HIPAA are:

  • Covered Entity
  • PHI

Covered entities are those who are required to comply with HIPAA guidelines.

You may not be directly in the health care field to still be required to comply with HIPAA. For example, if you provide a service to a health care firm that gives you access to patient information, you would be considered a “covered entity.”

Covered entities in HIPAA are:

  • Health Care Provider
  • Health Plan
  • Health Care Clearing House
  • Business Associate
  • Business Associate Contract (contractor or freelancer performing business associate duties)

PHI refers to Protected Health Information, which is individually identifiable health data.

So generally, anyone that handles PHI needs to protect that information according to the HIPAA guidelines.

Three Key Cybersecurity Areas of HIPAA

HIPAA covers a lot of different areas of handling health information and there are three key cybersecurity components that you need to know if you’re required to meet this standard.

  • Privacy Rule: Defines the limit and circumstances in which PHI may be used or disclosed by covered entities.
  • Security Rule: Covers what information is protected and the safeguards that need to be in place in your IT security protocol to ensure proper protection of electronic PHI.
  • Breach Notification: Provides guidelines on how breaches are to be reported to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and how soon.

Security Safeguards

Many of the safeguards that HIPAA requires are ones that make up good data security best practices, others may be something that companies need to adopt, such as designating a security official who is responsible for developing and implementing your security policies and procedures.

Here’s an overview of the areas covered in the Security Rule:

  • Administrative Safeguards
    • Security Management Process
    • Security Personnel
    • Information Access Management
    • Workforce Training and Management
    • Evaluation
  • Physical Safeguards
    • Facility Access and Control
    • Workstation and Device Security
  • Technical Safeguards
    • Access Control
    • Audit Controls
    • Integrity Controls
    • Transmission Security

Tips to Strengthen Your Data Security Compliance

Good cybersecurity means taking a multi-pronged approach to protect health information, your network, devices, and other data that you handle. These tips will help strengthen your cybersecurity hygiene as well as help you stay in compliance with HIPAA.

Adopt Good Credential Protection

A majority of hacking related data breaches (80%) are due to weak or stolen passwords. By adopting good credential protection, you comply with the access control guidelines and significantly increase your cybersecurity strength.

Do this by:

  • Using multi-factor authentication with all your logins
  • Using a password management application
  • Do not allow users to create weak passwords by configuring administrative settings in company applications.

Use Advanced Threat Protection and Firewall Tools

Protecting your network with a firewall that includes advanced threat protection helps you say defended against all the newest malware and ransomware threats out there, including Zero-day malware that’s so new, it hasn’t been identified yet.

These tools use advanced AI and machine learning to identify patterns, which allow them to detect and protect against sophisticated threats.

Hold Regular HIPAA Compliance & Security Training

If an employee accidentally leaves a patient record on the copier and it’s found by someone else, that’s a breach of security. You can’t expect your staff to stay on their toes with HIPAA compliance if they’ve only ever received one training on the subject.

A cybersmart staff is your best defense against the major threats that cause data breaches, so be sure to conduct regular training so they understand the security requirements and what threats to watch out for.

Manage & Secure Your Mobile Devices

Tablets are being used more often in health offices and hospitals because they make accessing patient information faster and more flexible than on a desktop PC. But those devices can also pose a security threat if they’re not properly managed and secured.

Using a mobile device management application allows you to keep a handle on those mobile devices, including employee owned smart phones, ensuring these devices aren’t creating a compliance risk.

Need Help Understanding Your HIPAA Compliance Requirements?

HIPAA compliance can be daunting, but you don’t have to go it alone. C Solutions can help make HIPAA compliance comprehensive and automatic.

Contact us today for a HIPAA primer and assessment of your IT security protocols. Call 407-536-8381 or reach out online.