One of the many requirements of maintaining a healthcare practice that's compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is to designate a Security Officer. Under HIPAA, all doctors, hospitals, chiropractors, dentists and other “covered entities” are required to have a Security Officer. So, what are the duties and responsibilities of this role?

Implementation of Security Policies

Among the duties and responsibilities of the Security Officer is the implementation of security policies. Policies regarding the manner in which patient data is stored, used and accesses is only helpful if they are properly implemented, which is where the Security Officer comes into play. He or she will ensure that the healthcare practice is properly implementing all of its security policies, protecting patient confidentiality in the process.

Conduct Risk Assessments

The Security Officer may also conduct regular risks assessments to determine whether or not Electronic Protected Health Information is at risk for disclosure. For instance, the Security Officer may discover workers who are sharing data on unsecure devices, which creates a serious risk in terms of patient privacy. By using the appropriate devices along with enhanced security measures, the Security Officer can prevent data breaches from occurring.

Respond to Incidents

When a data breach does occur, the Security Officer is often the first person on the scene. Depending on the size of the breach, the Security Officer may respond to incidents by him or herself, or they may lead a team. The goal in responding to incidents is to contain the breach, investigate the breach, and identify and implement new measures to protect against future incidents of similar magnitude.

What About the Privacy Officer?

In addition to designating a worker as the Security Officer, covered entities are also required to designate a worker as the Privacy Officer. While the Security Officer is responsible for ensuring management of Electronic Protected Health Information (EPHI), as well as the procedures and technical systems used to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of those systems, the Privacy Officer is responsible for training staff on complying with the Privacy Rule. Keep in mind, however, that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) allows the same worker to fill the role of both the Privacy Officer and Security Officer.

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