HIPAA compliance management can present a significant challenge to behavioral health practitioners who are also focused on running their practice.
Trying to manage HIPAA without a tool to organize the process can lead to headaches and HIPAA breaches. And with HIPAA fines growing year after year compliance is becoming an absolute necessity, even for small practices.
The first step to choosing an effective HIPAA compliance management tool is to understand your requirements in regards to HIPAA.
A HIPAA Outline
HIPAA regulation is composed of a series of national standards. These standards give health care professionals of all kind instructions for how to satisfy the law. Each standard must be addressed in your organization’s HIPAA policies and procedures, which in turn must be reviewed each and every year in order to account for changes to your practice.
With dozens of standards to address spread over four different HIPAA Rules, HIPAA compliance can quickly become overwhelming for small behavioral health practices to keep track of.
The HIPAA Rules are generally concerned with the privacy and integrity of protected health information (PHI). PHI is any demographic information collected over the course of treatment that can be used to identify a patient. That includes a patient’s name, date of birth, address, medical record, telephone number, full facial photo, Social Security number, or insurance information, to name a few examples.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) also routinely establishes new guidance for health care professionals in response to changes to technology, the health care market, or threats to PHI. In addition to current HIPAA requirements, an effective HIPAA compliance program must also incorporate new or changing guidance.
How to Tackle HIPAA Compliance Management
When you’re selecting a HIPAA compliance management tool, here are the six factors you should keep in mind to address the full extent of HIPAA regulatory standards:
- Self-Audits – An effective HIPAA compliance management tool should give your practice the ability to audit yourself against the HIPAA Rules.
- Remediation Plans – In order to mitigate HIPAA violations your HIPAA compliance management tool should give you the ability to build actionable plans to remedy any areas of the law that you aren’t currently addressing.
- Policies, Procedures, Employee Training – HIPAA policies and procedures must be updated annually, and your HIPAA compliance management program should give you the ability to both craft and review them as time goes on. Additionally, all staff members must be trained year after year–and your HIPAA program should reflect that.
- Documentation – Documenting your progress is perhaps the most important component of HIPAA compliance management. Documentation must be retained for 6 years as per federal regulation.
- Business Associate Management – Managing vendors with whom you share PHI is an essential component of HIPAA. Your HIPAA compliance management program should include templates for Business Associate Agreements.
- Incident Management – Another essential component of HIPAA compliance management includes tracking and reporting data breaches to HHS as they occur.
Keep these factors in mind when choosing a tool to help manage your HIPAA compliance.