Instilling a culture of compliance in one’s independent practice, group practice, clinic, or agency is integral to running a successful healthcare service. This is especially true for healthcare practices that do not share medical records with hospitals, which may employ a full-time team of HIPAA compliance professionals to keep everyone in compliance with the latest regulatory changes. HIPAA regulations heavily influence even the most basic of operations in a healthcare setting that is digitized to any degree (i.e., how patient or client data should be handled, who should be handling it, and how the information is secured both across distance and in one’s private, digital office). Creating a guide or document of HIPAA policies and procedures is essential to establishing a HIPAA-compliant environment while ensuring a compliance culture in everyone and every technology involved.
What to Include in Your HIPAA Policies and Procedures?
The content in your HIPAA policies and procedures should depend on how your practice operates, how you interact with patient or client data, and which technologies you use. Suppose your practice only works with paper patient records; your HIPAA policies and procedures would differ from a practice that only interacts with electronic records or a practice that interacts with both.
The main things to keep in mind when creating your practice’s HIPAA policies and procedures are:
- Do your policies and procedures comply with the standards outlined in the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules?
- Do they dictate the proper uses and disclosures of protected health information?
- Do they ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI?
- Do they create a system for detecting, reporting, and responding to PHI breaches?
- Does it provide patients and clients an appropriate level of access upon request?
- Do your policies and procedures apply directly to how your practice operates?
- Are they reviewed and updated periodically, or when there is a change in your practice’s operations?
- Are your employees trained to use them, and have they legally agreed to comply with the HIPAA standards?
Ensuring a HIPAA Compliant Environment
Establishing your practice’s HIPAA policies and procedures is an excellent start to creating a HIPAA-compliant environment. But how do you ensure that your environment maintains its compliance? By instilling a culture of compliance within your practice. Training your employees to instill a culture of compliance is vital. You should train your employees on HIPAA basics, cybersecurity best practices, HIPAA regulations, and your practice’s internal policies and procedures. However, it’s not enough to host an annual practice-wide training session. Why? Well, your employees likely started working for your practice at different times. Since HIPAA regulations require employees to be trained upon hire and retrained annually, it is best to use on-demand HIPAA training for your staff.
This Article is Contributed by the HIPAA Compliancy Group
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