Adopting an EHR platform is an important step into the digital age, but are you protecting your behavioral health practice with HIPAA compliance?
For many behavioral health practices, choosing an EHR–or electronic health records–platform has been becoming more pressing. National conversations about health data moving away from paper files have been growing since the HITECH Act was first passed in 2009.
Many EHR platforms advertise that their services are HIPAA compliant. This is an excellent measure that should be used to judge the safety and integrity of the data being stored in the EHR system.
However, there is a major misconception surrounding the use of HIPAA-compliant EHR systems and having a HIPAA-compliant behavioral health practice.
It’s important to remember that just because you use a HIPAA-compliant EHR vendor, it does not mean that your practice is in any way HIPAA compliant.
What Does HIPAA Compliance Require?
HIPAA compliance for behavioral health specialists includes an extensive series of privacy and security standards as outlined by federal HIPAA regulation. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has strict guidelines, which health care providers must adhere to in order to be HIPAA compliant.
Some of these requirements include:
- Self-Audits – HIPAA requires you to conduct annual audits of your practice to assess Administrative, Technical, and Physical gaps in compliance with HIPAA Privacy and Security standards.
- Remediation Plans – Once you’ve identified gaps, you must implement remediation plans to reverse compliance violations.
- Policies, Procedures, Employee Training – To avoid compliance violations in the future, you’ll need to develop Policies and Procedures corresponding to HIPAA regulatory standards. Annual staff training on these Policies and Procedures is required.
- Documentation – Your practice document efforts you take to become HIPAA compliant. This documentation is critical during a HIPAA investigation with HHS.
- Business Associate Management – You must document all vendors with whom you share protected health information (PHI), and execute Business Associate Agreements to ensure PHI is handled securely and mitigate liability.
- Incident Management – If your practice has a data breach, you must have a process to document the breach and notify patients that their data has been compromised.
Once again, the importance of having a HIPAA-compliant EHR system is invaluable–especially in the age of Meaningful Use incentives and federal guidance moving away from paper records. It’s essential that you adopt a complete HIPAA compliance solution in your practice in order to fully prevent against the data breaches and OCR fines that are growing year-by-year.