Malicious cyber attacks, data breaches, and the sale of personal information have made the general public very sensitive about the way that their data is handled. This has prompted governments across the world to introduce laws providing clear and strict rules that dictate how businesses should protect sensitive data.
Laws like this are especially important in regulated fields like healthcare, where patients share protected health information (PHI) with their medical providers.
Healthcare providers are required to comply with HIPAA, the US regulation that protects PHI. But being aware of HIPAA, understanding it, and fully complying with it are all different matters. Here’s why every medical organization needs a HIPAA compliance assessment.
What Is HIPAA?
HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is an act that was created to protect sensitive patient information from being disclosed without the patient’s knowledge. This act covers three main areas; administration, physical security, and technical security.
There are many steps that a healthcare business needs to take before they are HIPAA compliant. This includes backing up data, using encryption to keep information safe, and removing information when it is no longer relevant, along with a range of requirements. In essence, to fully comply with HIPAA, healthcare businesses have to be able to demonstrate that they’ve done everything they can to keep data safe.
Why Is HIPAA Important?
Regulations like HIPAA are crucial in the modern world, where nearly every process relies on digitally stored data. Healthcare organizations have often fallen behind with data security in the past, making them prime targets for cyber criminals. With ever-more advanced techniques used for hacking, without the protection a business has to put in place to become HIPAA compliant, it would be very easy for sensitive data to be stolen.
Healthcare is currently the industry most targeted by ransomware, with ransomware attacks on healthcare increasing by 350% in the last quarter of 2019. And with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic at the start of 2020, cyber attacks in general—and especially those targeting medical offices—have only increased.
Following HIPAA regulations helps healthcare organizations take steps to prevent cost-draining cyber attacks and the resulting downtime, legal fees, and other penalties that inevitably follow a data breach.
What Happens If You’re Not HIPAA Compliant?
Failing to meet HIPAA compliance standards can cause significant trouble for a business. Each record that has been handled incorrectly and exposed can result in fines, meaning that fines can grow rapidly when a large number of records has been breached. Some examples of the penalties businesses and individuals face when they fail to be compliant with HIPAA include the following:
- Fines of $100 to $50,000 per record violation, with the total cost of the fine being determined by the nature of the compliance issue.
- A minimum fine of $50,000 per record violation if HIPAA rules are willfully violated. A willful violation occurs when a business is aware of HIPAA rules but still chooses to take actions that will lead to non-compliance.
- Individuals found to be in violation of HIPAA can be fined a maximum of $250,000 per year, while businesses can be fined a maximum of $1.5 million per year.
- Knowingly violating HIPAA rules can result in a prison term of up to 10 years. This verdict can be given to business owners or employees, depending on who is responsible for violations.
As you can see, the consequences of violating HIPAA rules are severe, but it’s important to keep in mind that this is always handled on a case-by-case basis. This means that businesses that have made an unconscious mistake will always fare better than those who have intentionally disregarded the rules.
Becoming HIPAA Compliant
You should make each of the three different areas of HIPAA compliance a focus, working to improve them all and make sure that no violations are occurring.
- Administration: Employees working for healthcare organizations need to be well-trained when it comes to HIPAA compliance. Many violations occur as the result of human error, but this can be avoided if your team is trained to handle data safely and securely.
- Physical Security: Physical security is a crucial element of HIPAA compliance, with buildings, computer networks, and the other areas that handle sensitive data in a business having to be secure. Tools like CCTV and digital locking systems are just about essential nowadays, but you can talk to a security company to see what else can be done.
- Technical Security: Firewalls, anti-malware tools, and encryption all come under the banner of technical security. Regular HIPAA assessments of your technical security can mitigate the risk of fines or prison terms, but a Managed Service Provider specializing in healthcare and compliance can help you with this.
HIPAA compliance is crucial to any healthcare organization, but you never have to take on a challenge like this by yourself. There are tools and technology available to medical organizations specifically for the purpose of maintaining HIPAA compliance, and specialized managed service providers are trained in using them to cover every element of your data security.
How a HIPAA Compliance Assessment Will Benefit Your Business
Although many healthcare providers may already be in compliance with some areas of HIPAA, it’s far easier to rely on an expert than try to navigate the steps of HIPAA compliance on your own.
A HIPAA compliance assessment will review your current setup in accordance with each regulation established by HIPAA in regards to your specific business, size, location, processes, and technology.
The assessors will evaluate your level of compliance with each requirement, and, if any areas are found to be lacking, your assessors will provide a detailed action plan to take in order to become fully compliant.
While HIPAA compliance is a necessary beginning, you can take cybersecurity steps beyond what is required as a minimum by HIPAA to ensure your business technology is working smoothly and completely secure. Contact Coronainfo today to learn more about our dedicated healthcare IT services and how they can help you reach HIPAA compliance and comprehensive cybersecurity.