Due to recent technological developments, the healthcare sector has become one of the most productive for various business endeavors. In fact, according to a recent InvestinGoal, the healthcare sector is the third best sector for investments, right after IT and Consumer discretionary.
However, running a healthcare business is a bit more challenging than a regular software development agency or e-commerce shop. That’s because you have to learn to navigate the murky waters of HIPAA regulations on top of everything else.
HIPAA regulations, protocols, and guidelines are necessary to provide quality care to your patients while keeping their data safe. This is why every business working in the healthcare sector must understand and respect them.
To make things a bit easier, we’ll discuss the top 3 most important HIPAA guidelines to understand and the top 3 mistakes to avoid.
3 Most Vital HIPAA Rules to Understand
Understanding HIPAA isn’t just about ticking regulatory boxes for your healthcare business. In reality, it’s all about ensuring trust between you and your patients while providing optimum care.
With this in mind, here are the top 3 rules every healthcare business must uphold:
1. The Privacy Rule
This rule is at the very core of HIPAA and defines how healthcare businesses should handle protected health information (PHI). PHI is any data (be it oral, written, or electronic) that directly relates to an individual’s past, present, or future health condition, as well as payment for healthcare services received
The Privacy Rule dictates precisely when and how such data can be disclosed—typically only with patient authorization. This means that each member of your team that comes in contact with PHI must operate under the guidance of this rule.
2. The Security Rule
Given today’s tech-centric world, where electronic health records are becoming increasingly common (also a great way to reduce your business’s reliance on paper), your business must set strong standards for security.
This is precisely what this HIPAA rule entails – it teaches about how to implement administrative, physical, and technical safeguards that will keep patient data away from any prying eyes.
Keep in mind that the healthcare sector is one of the most hit by cyberattacks and that businesses that get caught up in this whirlwind risk losing reputation, credibility, and money.
3. The Breach Notification Rule
If the worst has happened and your PHI database has been breached, you must follow this rule. It states that businesses have the obligation to immediately notify affected individuals and report to the Department of Health & Human Services.
This way, both affected individuals and authorities can take necessary actions to minimize the damage.
Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid
Staying compliant with HIPAA rules and regulations means being aware of potential pitfalls that could cost your business dearly. Therefore, let’s have a look at the top 3 HIPAA-related mistakes you absolutely must avoid to ensure smooth, compliant operations.
1. Not Training Your Staff on HIPAA
Sadly, proper staff training is perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects when it comes to HIPAA compliance.
No amount of safeguards and protocols will help if your team isn’t educated about what constitutes protected health information (PHI) and how to handle it. You can opt for internal training sessions where specialists in the field provide one-on-one lessons to your team, or you can choose to offer specialized resources, like these HIPAA videos, that your employees can browse at their own leisure.
Regardless of the method, you must make sure everyone on your team is up to date with the latest regulations and that they are following them.
2. Insufficient or Lax Security Measures
Whether you keep patient data in physical format or opt for electronic data storage, you must have an ironclad security system designed to protect against breaches.
For instance, not having strong password protection policies for access to your system or using outdated firewalls are high-risk practices that can lead to information leaks. Also, you must make sure that only authorized personnel have access to your file and server areas.
3. Playing Fast and Loose with Patient Consent
In the context of HIPAA, seeking patient consent often surrounds the disclosure or use of protected health information (PHI). Patients must give their written permission, acknowledging they understand what data will be shared and why, before you can proceed.
However, consent isn’t required for every PHI disclosure. In cases like facilitating treatment coordination or handling insurance billing matters, sharing PHI without explicit consent is legally acceptable.
Keep in mind that the exceptions are quite rare, so if you’re not sure if you can use PHI without patient consent in a particular situation, it’s best to ask a specialist.
Above all, HIPAA safeguards the privacy rights and trust of patients. So, before you start thinking these regulations make your job more difficult, consider the fact that they are in place to keep both your customers and your business safe.
Let’s not forget – adherence to HIPAA goes beyond being about just legalities or avoiding penalties. It becomes part of your ethical responsibility as a healthcare provider.