You know that HIPAA compliance is important and necessary for the well being of your practice and for your patients' privacy. Computer security is an important aspect in keeping patients' records private, but how can you make sure the computers in your office are HIPAA compliant? Follow these 5 steps to make sure the PHI your office handles is secure and that your office meets HIPAA guidelines:

  • Train your staff to understand computer security:
    HIPAA security standards exist for protected health information (PHI) records that are stored and/or transmitted electronically. A breach in the computer's security system could leak your patients' private information into the wrong hands and/or destroy that information permanently. It is vital that you and your employees understand the risks involved with computer security so that your office can take the necessary precautions to protect your patients' valuable information. Make sure your office staff is trained on computer security, and have a security checklist posted within the office that includes protocol for the intake of patient information as well as for suspected security breaches. Under no circumstance should an employee make an exception for security protocol. Most security breaches are a direct result of an insider failing to take the proper security precautions for one reason or another.
  • Catalog any information system components that interact with PHI in your office:
    In order to fully realize your office's level of risk in security breaches, you need to know what computer information systems interact with PHI. Analyze your hardware, software, and network components to determine which ones play at least a minor role in storing and/or transmitting PHI. This step is required by HIPAA, and for good reason. It is the only way you can know which systems need to be protected in order to be HIPAA compliant and to protect your patients' private information.
  • Have a disaster plan:
    If you follow all of HIPAA's regulations to be compliant, you shouldn't have a security breach. However, you want to be prepared in case of disaster or emergency in order to minimize the damage in a timely manner. The most important aspect here is a backup system. You will need to analyze your practice and the amount of information stored to determine which type of backup system works best for your office. If you haven't done this already, do so soon. You never know when human error or a natural disaster will destroy your in office system.
  • Keep all security systems up to date:
    You should have some sort of malware and anti-virus system already installed on your system. Make sure to keep these security systems up to date. In addition, make sure your office's network is secure to minimize the chances that hackers can get into your system. Firewalls are one way to block hackers, and some will send alert signals when an unauthorized user has tried to access the system. Encryption is another tool that, while not required by the HIPAA guidelines, should be used for certain types of transfers of communication including patient billing, patient health information gathered from a website, personal emails between doctors and patients, and lab and other clinical data that is transmitted electronically.
  • Carefully choose your business relationships: 
    You likely do some business with companies that do not have to comply with HIPAA standards. Nonetheless, you need to make sure that they will follow HIPAA guidelines as regulated by you in order to make sure that your practice is meeting the requirements. The phrase “Chain of trust” is used in the computer security field to describe the contractual agreements made between multiple parties to ensure that the confidential information they share remains secure throughout their digital communication. HIPAA requires that you obtain written confirmation from your business affiliates that they will practice secure and confidential methods of communication. Make sure to get this confirmation in writing, and avoid associating with any business that refuses to comply.

HIPAA compliance is an important but complicated and often confusing regulation. To simplify things in your office, contact us. We can work with your office to make sure you are always HIPAA compliant.

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