Data is one of the most valuable assets any healthcare provider or firm should protect. With the onset of more advanced digital threats like ransomware, cybersecurity attacks, and the like, it’s of utmost importance that any entity working in the healthcare industry should take the proper steps to keep their systems and processes compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.
As per HIPAA regulations, covered entities (CEs), such as physicians, insurance providers, and healthcare clearinghouses are responsible for protecting their patients’ protected health information (PHI). Moreover, if they work with business associates (BAs) like IT providers, medical billing firms, and the like, it’s critical for both CEs and BAs to be HIPAA compliant. That said, keeping one’s practice compliant is essential to maintaining your integrity while avoiding penalties and fines.
So, if you want to ensure your practice passes the dreaded audit, here are five ways to prepare for HIPAA audit.
1. Do Regular Security Risk Assessments
When preparing for a HIPAA audit, it’s best to assess your business’s current risk management plan. The first thing the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will look for during an investigation is an up-to-date and adequately documented security risk analysis (SRA).
Security risk assessments should be conducted regularly to ensure your firm is consistently compliant. These assessments must be applied to the whole company, not just in particular departments. Moreover, security risk assessments must also cover the identification of vulnerabilities, threats, the potential occurrence of threats, high-risk technical and non-technical assets that need extra protection, and current security measures that are in place.
Aside from gathering data to identify these components, it’s essential to always document everything that happens inside your company and what actions were taken to resolve previous security breaches. Having a well-written SRA shows that the company has appropriately assessed the operations and vulnerabilities before any audits. Making these SRA documents easily retrievable can help smoothen any HIPAA audit.
If you want to ensure your business is HIPAA compliant, it may be best to have a third party help you with preparations. Working with an entity that does HIPAA audits services may be the best path to take.
2. Ensure Employees Are Properly Trained
Audit success results from a harmonious collaboration between the management and employees. Compliance with the rules of HIPAA is a continuous process that involves everyone in the company.
Giving your staff HIPAA compliance training is critical to passing the HIPAA audit. Thorough training can help your staff answer any question from the OCR and show that everyone in the company understands HIPAA compliance rules and regulations. Not only will your sufficiently trained employees help you pass a HIPAA audit, but they can also help you improve any company policies that are insufficient to safeguard your patients’ privacy.
3. Have a Disaster Recovery Plan
The next thing healthcare companies can do is formulate a disaster recovery plan Setting one up is an excellent way to respond to any incidents quickly. Addressing potential security incidents is an essential part of complying with HIPAA’s rules and regulations, aside from ensuring business continuity in case disruptions occur because of unforeseen events.
4. Review How Policies Are Implemented
It can’t be denied how essential documenting policies and procedures are for HIPAA compliance. But, it’s also vital for the OCR to see how these policies and practices are implemented consistently and how they apply to daily business operations.
Talk to your staff to find out how the policies work and if anyone is struggling to follow them. Analyze the root of the issue, and make adjustments to ensure that everyone adheres to the regulations and policies. Ensure you have documentation of your policies and implementation schedule to show to the OCR during audits.
5. Pay Special Attention to Business Associate Agreements (BAAS)
As a business or practitioner in the healthcare industry, it’s critical to be on the same page with everyone you work with, especially if these entities have access to your patients’ PHI.
Thus, when collaborating with third-party firms, you must implement the proper business associate agreements. Paying close attention to what’s stated in your BAAS is important in securing patients’ data while sidestepping any liability should these third-party partners be the cause of a data breach.
Preparation and proper implementation are your tools in preparing for a HIPAA audit. Thus, knowing how to comply with HIPAA regulations should be the top priority of business leaders and practitioners in the healthcare industry.