HIPAA Compliance in the Healthcare Industry

Over the years, the healthcare industry has greatly benefited from new technologies and the use of digital devices that help improve service delivery. However, along with these benefits also come a myriad of challenges.

Such IoT devices come with additional endpoints to manage that expose health facilities to cyberattacks. As a result, the healthcare industry has emerged as one of the primary targets for cybercriminals. Health facilities face risks such as ransomware, which can cripple operations or theft of protected health information (PHI), which is then sold on the black market.

To curb such threats and ensure that patient information and service delivery is not compromised, there are cybersecurity regulations and compliance requirements that health facilities should observe. If you are in the healthcare sector, you've probably heard of HIPAA, one such regulation.

Though the health sector is now well aware of the threat cyberattacks present, only a few have the expertise required to protect themselves and how to comply with HIPAA.

Cybercrime can have devastating effects on health facilities. Any downtime puts patients' lives at risk. This is why it is crucial to ensure that your facility has robust security protocols and is HIPAA compliant.

Read on to find out more about HIPAA and how you can ensure your patients' data is secure and services are not disrupted.

What is HIPAA Compliance?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a regulation that outlines the rules and best practices within the health sector to safeguard protected health information (PHI). The act stipulates that any organization that deals with PHI is required to have physical, network, and process security procedures, and observe them to be HIPAA compliant.

HIPAA covers entities that offer treatment, payment, and other services in the health sector. Other entities such as subcontractors or business associates that also have access to patient information are also required to comply with HIPAA.

About HIPAA Risk Assessments and Best Practices

One of the key elements of HIPAA compliance is risk assessment. This requirement was part of the original HIPAA privacy rules in 2003. However, it was bolstered in 2013 with the Final Omnibus Rule, which extended compliance and risk assessment regulations to business associates.

Without conducting risk assessments, complying with HIPAA rules is near impossible and exposes you to non-compliance fines. Fines issued vary depending on the severity of the breach or compliance levels. Most HIPAA fines fall under the 'willful neglect' category, which attracts steep penalties. An excellent example of this is the 5.5 million dollars fine, the Advocate Health Care Network faced.

With fines of such magnitude on the table, non-compliance can cost you your business.

When it comes to HIPAA compliance, there are many regulations to follow, and none has greater significance than the other. As such, the best way to ensure you are compliant at all times is to follow a HIPAA compliance checklist such as:

  • Know which assessments and annual audits are applicable to your institution.
  • Perform all necessary audits and assessments and document all deficiencies after analyzing the results.
  • Develop remediation measures and put them in action. Follow up with annual reviews and updates when needed.
  • Appoint a HIPAA compliance and security officer.
  • Conduct annual HIPAA compliance training for all staff.
  • Document HIPAA training for staff members and attestation of HIPAA policies.
  • Ensure that business associates are compliant with HIPAA rules.
  • Set out and review processes that allow your team to report breaches and how such violations are reported to HHS OCR.

The Importance of HIPAA Compliance Training for Your Team

A patients' PHI contains a lot of sensitive information. When such data falls into the wrong hands, it could have serious implications for you and them. On the patients' side, exposure of such information may reach their relatives or employers without their permission. Hackers can also use such information to impersonate patients for fraud.

When such data is exposed, your facility will be liable and can face steep fines. As such, it is vital to adhere to all HIPAA rules. However, this is easier said than done. To achieve and maintain compliance, your team must be well aware of the steps needed to protect patient information.

This is why it is important to conduct regular staff compliance training for HIPAA. This can be best achieved by working with a reputable institution such as GreyCastle.

How Can GreyCastle Help?

When it comes to HIPAA, it's all about risk management, which involves identifying, controlling, and mitigating risks in the information system. To ensure clients' systems are secure, GreyCastle uses a four-phase risk assessment approach.

Phase 1 - Scope It

The first phase involves scoping the system to understand its boundaries, criticality, and sensitivity in the following areas:

  • Software
  • Hardware
  • Mission
  • Personnel
  • Interfaces and integration
  • System and data criticality
  • System and data sensitivity

Phase 2 - Gap Assessment

During this phase, systems are assessed to uncover vulnerabilities in terms of:

  • Security violations
  • Industry standards (ISO, CIS, NIST)
  • External intel

Also, an analysis of the current controls is also conducted to determine whether they are done according to practice, formalized and repeatable, or Non-existent.

Phase 3 - Risk Analysis

Once the vulnerabilities are identified, the risk they pose to the organization is analyzed based on the threat of the source as well as their capability and motivation. This analysis also involves assessing the effectiveness of current controls and the level of impact on operations, finances, and the reputation of a company if the threat occurs.

Phase 4 - Control Recommendations

To ensure clients' data is protected, GreyCastle recommends controls to mitigate risk. These recommendations will be based on:

  • Laws and regulations
  • Organizational policy
  • Impact on operations
  • Feasibility
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Safety and reliability

Once all the four phases of risk assessment are conducted, senior leadership will receive a report on the findings and recommended controls. This will assist with decision making on matters pertaining to budget and operations.

HIPAA Is More than About Cyber Security

Primarily, HIPAA rules are designed as protective measures against increasing cyber threats. However, HIPAA goes beyond protecting information and into saving lives. If your security is breached, service delivery will be affected, thus putting patients' lives at risk.

Are you looking for a cybersecurity company with experience in healthcare and HIPAA? GreyCastle Security helps organizations achieve HIPAA compliance through risk assessments and staff training. Reach out to GreyCastle Security today to achieve HIPAA compliance.

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