HIPAA Compliance: Beginners' Guide

All companies that create, receive, store, or transmit electronically protected health information, or e-PHI must be HIPAA compliant. HIPAA is the legal standard for protecting patient health data in the United States.

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a complex regulation covering many aspects affecting healthcare providers, business associates, healthcare clearinghouses, and health plans. HIPAA is a federal law that protects every individual’s identifiable health information. Its privacy rule covers all types of patient information, such as electronic health information, paper records, spoken information, videos, and film.

Achieving HIPAA compliance requires a dedicated team to handle the process. If you meet all requirements, the average time to be compliant is around six months. However, if you have a professional to guide you and you use an automated HIPAA compliance solution, you can be sure that the process will be shorter, as your team can stay on track to meet all requirements. 

HIPAA compliance

If your facility is working on HIPAA compliance, it is better to know more about HIPAA, achieve compliance, and remain compliant. 

Any company or person providing healthcare treatment, operations, or payments is subject to it. The law also requires these entities to deploy a compliance program. HIPAA aims to set and enforce security standards to protect a patient’s health information related to healthcare payment and the individual’s past, present, and future mental and physical health.

Failure to comply with the regulations and policies entails financial fines, ranging from $100 to $50,000 for each violation. 

But in the current setting where transactions and activities are processed in the digital environment, healthcare facilities and providers must likewise ensure that they protect digital patient databases. HIPAA also recognizes that the risk of data breaches increases because of online collaboration between medical professionals, online consultations, and other activities.

HIPAA rules

  1. Security rule. A series of rules govern HIPAA implementation, the first being the security rule requiring facilities and healthcare providers to have administrative, technical, and physical safeguards. The requirement depends on the company’s size, the complexity of the services, risk factors, and technical infrastructure.
  2. Privacy rule. The privacy rule covers the use and sharing of protected health information (PHI). This rule gives the patients the right to get and examine the copies of their health records and request corrections if there are any. The regulation likewise gives companies 30 days to respond to patient requests. Companies can only release any health information to private health insurance providers or schools, research, fundraising, or marketing after receiving written permission from the patient. 
  3. Enforcement rule. This rule covers the resulting investigation in case of a breach. In addition, it provides guidelines on how regulators can determine the organization’s liability and how to calculate the fines if the company fails the compliance. 
  4. Breach notification rule. This particular rule requires a HIPAA-covered provider to notify their patients if there is a data breach. Likewise, they must inform the Department of Health and Human Service and the media if the breach affects over 500 patients. For more minor breaches involving less than 500 patients, the provider must provide annual reports on the breaches. 

If you are already on SOC 2 compliance, adding a set of monitoring and controls will help you work toward HIPAA compliance. At the same time, learning more about HIPAA will help you understand the strict guidelines you should follow to be compliant.