According to the HIPAA Journal, this past October (2022) suffered 71 data breaches, accounting for the unwarranted disclosure of protected health information (PHI) of over 6 million individuals (an all-time high for 2022). As the occurrence of cyber-attacks and data breaches continue to grow, medical providers find themselves tasked with adhering to an ever-increasing litany of HIPAA compliance requirements. Thus, strong cybersecurity program implementation and maintenance should remain a top priority for healthcare facilities of every size across the U.S.
This is especially true with data stored in digital environments at medical facilities. Any healthcare organization with access to electronic protected health information (ePHI) is required to meet the three HIPAA security requirements to ensure that the very highest network security standards are being upheld at all times. Medical practices or facilities that fail to comply with HIPAA’s ePHI mandates may find themselves facing several significant consequences, including financial penalties, criminal charges, and civil action lawsuits in the event of a data breach.
All Healthcare Facilities Should Be Familiar With Current HIPAA Security Standards
It’s important to note that even healthcare facilities that are unaware of all current HIPAA regulations are still required to uphold them. The Office of Civil Rights will still issue penalties to medical facilities, regardless of whether the infraction was an inadvertent oversight or due to blatant, willful negligence. As a result, CISOs and IT Directors should have at least a basic understanding of the three areas of HIPAA security their facilities must maintain to ensure they are following government-mandated protocol within their organizations.
The three HIPAA security standard categories include:
For a medical provider’s administrative procedures to meet HIPAA security regulations, the organization must:
- Have a formalized, written document that outlines privacy and security procedures
- Identify an information security officer and a privacy officer who will manage data security and HIPAA compliance for the facility
- Carefully identify every employee who requires access to stored ePHI
- Create a process that outlines procedures for outside consultants/partners who may access private data to adhere to mandated HIPAA compliance practices
- Develop a process to back up data as well as an emergency plan that considers a diverse range of unexpected events and disasters
- Conduct internal audits on a consistent basis to pinpoint any network security risk and data loss prevention lapses
- Design a security incident response plan to alert patients, minimize intelligence loss, and repair breached environments
Many healthcare administrators assume that a cyber-attack is the biggest threat to their digital infrastructures. However, a lost or stolen computer, laptop, or device is one of the most common causes of a HIPAA data breach. As a result, medical practices must adhere to several physical security requirements, such as:
- Develop a plan that restricts physical access to computers and devices
- Limit access to designated secure areas throughout the building
- Shield screens and workstations from public view and passersby
- Establish a stringent process for disposing of hardware and software within the practice
- Train all employees and outside contractors on current physical security requirements
HIPAA compliance and security laws also have technical and IT requirements. Many administrators find the technology component the most complicated because innovation is ongoing, making it difficult to consistently stay up to date on the very latest requirements as well as the most current cybersecurity threats to the facility’s systems.
Some essential technical HIPAA requirements include:
- File encryption for any data sent via email or uploaded onto a digital cloud
- Implement an added layer of network security practices to help prevent outside cyber-attacks from hackers, malware, and other sources
- Create a process that protects data from inadvertent modifications and deletions
- Reinforce password practices to include capital/lower case letters as well as letters, numbers, and symbols
- Implementing data validation processes that reduce the risk of data entry mistakes
- Consistently stay up-to-date on the very latest HIPAA processes to ensure compliance with technology and network configurations
Contact Fortified Health Security Today
At Fortified Health Security, we recognize that maintaining security and compliance across all three HIPAA safeguards can challenge even the most robust healthcare IT department. We can help. Our team of veteran cybersecurity specialists can develop a customized HIPAA compliance solution that keeps your medical facility ahead of the technology curve and helps protect your patients’ sensitive stored information. Contact us today to hear more.