The Importance of HIPAA IT Compliance

Jack Berberian

Advancements in information technology mean medical data is being stored in new ways.

Gone are the days of massive filing cabinets and binders that hold paper health records. Files are moving from physical folders to digital ones.

IT has become a vital part of healthcare. But while cybersecurity is always important, the medical field requires special care.

The health privacy law HIPAA doesn’t only apply to doctors and nurses. IT personnel must comply too. Here’s why HIPAA IT compliance is so important.

Health IT Is Bound to HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is the U.S. legislation that sets standards for the secure handling of sensitive medical information.

The two pillars of HIPAA are the Privacy Rule and the Security Rule. The Privacy Rule says what data must be protected. The Security Rule focuses on how that sensitive information remains secure.

The rules apply to any person that works in healthcare. Any companies that handle medical information, called covered entities (CEs), must also comply.

IT companies are covered entities. Web hosts, device manufacturers, and software developers are all bound by HIPAA if they work with healthcare providers. A medical provider’s in-house IT experts must also follow HIPPA.

Especially relevant to IT personnel is HIPAA’s Security Rule.

The Security Rule

Because of HIPAA, the transition to digital storage of information needs to be a careful one. The compliance of IT is vital.

Electronic protected health information (ePHI) presents many advantages to the old paper methods. It’s faster to find documents and it’s more eco-friendly. The analysis of big data can lead to medical breakthroughs.

But going digital also presents new threats to ePHI. Cybersecurity issues are at the forefront of IT’s importance to the medical industry.

In the digital age, the Security Rule sets guidelines for HIPAA IT compliance.

IT companies don’t only have a moral responsibility to protect sensitive health data. They’re bound by law to do so.

The law requires safeguards implemented by both medical companies and the IT companies they work with.

Physical Safeguards
The Security Rule outlines necessary physical safeguards around ePHI technology.

Among these is limited access to facilities. For example, only authorized business associates may enter a server warehouse.

Security systems should be in place to guard the physical location of ePHI storage technology.

Technical Safeguards
Technical safeguards focus on limiting access electronically.

Access control through unique IDs and passwords for authorized personnel is one of the key safeguards. Encrypted emails and devices are also critical to ensure the safe transfer of files online.

The technology should also include a way to check access history, showing who accessed information and when.

Administrative Safeguards
The administrative safeguards involve any other oversight needed by CEs.

The Security Rule requires CEs to provide proper training to employees about HIPAA. All workers need to know proper procedures.

CEs must also do frequent evaluations of security measures to ensure policies meet requirements.

Keep Up with HIPAA IT Compliance

IT companies are often the guardians of patients’ most private information.

As new cyber threats emerge, HIPAA regulations evolve to meet the challenge. It can be tricky to maintain IT compliance.

SecureNetMD has the resources to help. Follow the HIT Talk blog for the latest news and tips to enhance your medical IT security.

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