The industry has embraced health information technology, health IT, to improve the quality and efficiency of the healthcare industry. A majority of offices and institutions use health IT to prevent and reduce medical errors, improve billing, reduce paper cost and paperwork, to expand access to healthcare services, and to reduce the overall cost of quality healthcare. While health IT comes many benefits, it too comes with risk. At stake is patient data and privacy, and healthcare professionals must take care to safeguard it at all costs. Healthcare professionals can use HIPAA-compliant technology to achieve the aforementioned tasks while remaining compliant and protecting patients.
What is the Process for Compliance?
What does it mean to be HIPAA-compliant? According to the Health and Human Services, the Safeguards Principle states that any identifiable health information about a patient must be “protected with reasonable administrative, technical, and physical safeguards.” The established practices and safeguards must ensure the confidentiality, access, and integrity of the patient’s information, while preventing outside access and use that is not permitted, authorized or disclosed. The Five Technical Safeguards are:
- Access Control
- Audit Control
- Integrity of the System
- Secure Transmission
Cloud Service for HIPAA Compliance
A healthcare professional or institution must work with a skilled professional in the industry to ensure HIPAA compliance and security. An IT security team and managed services provider will perform a risk assessment to evaluate the threats and the possible compliance issues. What is technology’s role? In fact, technology is a major player in protecting client/patient data and privacy, HIPAA compliance, and healthcare resilience and protection. Cloud services are changing the healthcare industry.
Many healthcare offices are turning to cloud storage services to ensure HIPAA compliance and safeguards for patient data. There is no shortage on the number of providers offering HIPAA-compliant cloud services, but which ones really are compliant? When you are choosing a cloud service, consider a few factors to ensure the service you are using will protect you and your patients:
- Know that Health and Human Services does not endorse or certify cloud services. So, any cloud service that touts that it is HIPPA certified is one that should conjure suspect.
- Any vendor, partner, business associate or service that works with client data, which a cloud service does, must follow the protocols and requirements issued by HHS. Even though the cloud service is a digital entity, it is still considered a business associates and required to abide by government rules and regulations.
- Because the cloud service is a business associate, the company must be willing to sign what is called a Business Associate Agreement because it will be handling patient information. It the company or service provider will not, cease doing business with the provider until it signs a BAA.
- Ask about departments and teams established solely to ensure HIPAA compliance.
- Talk to the cloud service provider about security protocols and checks.
- Ask about the company’s success and ability handling healthcare organizations as clients.
- Verify that all information sent to and stored in the cloud is encrypted.
It is hard for organizations and providers to find the best service for the right price, and then to trust the reputation and compliance with the cloud service or security service. Healthcare professionals must work with a team of security and IT experts in the field that has experience with HIPAA and patient management.