Overcoming 5 common HIPAA compliance challenges

Overcoming 5 common HIPAA compliance challenges

Compliance with strict industry regulations is often seen as a necessary evil, a chore that involves reams of paperwork and red tape. It’s not the most glamorous aspect of modern business, but achieving compliance isn’t just about fulfilling your legal obligations. It’s also about increasing trust and giving yourself a competitive edge, even if that means voluntarily becoming Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act- (HIPAA) compliant when you’re not yet legally required to.

Given that HIPAA legislation was enshrined in federal law way back in 1996 and Connecticut’s healthcare privacy law was passed in 2000, neither make their technology requirements very clear. The best way to look at compliance is as part of a wider cybersecurity strategy in which you adopt the best practices and work only with carefully vetted third parties. That being said, here are some of the biggest challenges facing compliance teams and how you can address them:

#1. Remote access

An increasingly mobile workforce introduces benefits across all industries, and healthcare is no exception. However, workforce mobility also requires remote access to systems hosted in the cloud or on a private corporate network. This increases the number of potential cyberattacks, especially given how vulnerable portable devices are to theft or loss.

Insecure remote access is a security and compliance disaster waiting to happen. You need to enforce strict password policies and multifactor authentication to verify all login attempts every time.

#2. BYOD policies

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies in the healthcare industry can increase productivity and reduce costs by letting employees use their own devices for work rather than trying to get accustomed to something new provided by their employers. Unfortunately, the concept is enough to leave many business leaders deeply unsettled, particularly when it comes to patient health information (PHI).

You can’t reasonably expect to assert control over your employees’ own devices, but you can keep control of your data by ensuring it never leaves your company servers. Furthermore, all PHI should be encrypted both at rest and in transit.

#3. Third parties

Virtually all organizations work with third-party technology providers, such as companies offering cloud-hosted services, virtual desktops, email, and online storage. Cloud computing and managed services have become the new norm as companies increasingly outsource their computing workloads. At the same time, this also means placing your confidential data in someone else’s hands.

If your business ever handles PHI, you need to make absolutely sure that any third party you partner with is also HIPAA-compliant as a business associate. It’s ultimately up to you to carefully vet your technology vendors.

#4. Human error

Although unsecure or outdated technology often ends up getting the blame, the human element is usually the real reason behind a successful data breach. Even if your team members are trying their best, poorly trained personnel are more susceptible to schemes like social engineering scams. No amount of technology can completely guard against human error either, which is why continuous training is a must.

HIPAA has extensive ongoing training requirements, both in its Privacy and Security Rules. Topics to cover include security updates, protection from malware, user access policies and login monitoring.

#5. Evolving technology

Perhaps the biggest challenge with meeting any compliance standard is the dynamic and constantly evolving nature of technology itself. Consider, for example, the fact that HIPAA was introduced over 20 years ago when the corporate technology landscape bared little resemblance to what it has become today. In other words, what worked all those years ago is no longer sufficient now.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 was introduced to make clearer the security and privacy requirements that HIPAA-covered entities needed to comply with. However, given the constant pace of change, it pays to have up-to-date and expert advice on your side.

Charles IT provides compliance and security assessments that ensure you’re always ahead of the game. Call us today to book your first consultation.

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