HIPAA IT Compliance: What You Need to Know

When it comes to technology and data management, there is no other more valuable commodity than personally identifiable information (PII). For healthcare providers that use diagnostic systems to create data about patients and use electronic methods to store patient records, PII combined with medical records and information becomes what’s known in the healthcare industry as electronic protected health information, or ePHI. Because lawmakers understand the value of such data, but also the need for healthcare providers to create and store ePHI, they’ve created legislation to regulate how such data is managed. In this blog, Apex Technology provides healthcare professionals with insight into the managed cybersecurity implications and IT compliance requirements of HIPAA and how those requirements impact how you do business in Charlotte. 

 

How a 1996 Legislative Act was Updated To Become One of the Most Comprehensive Measures for Protecting ePHI 

Passed in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was designed to protect US citizens by requiring healthcare providers to safeguard physical records and other protected health information (PHI) or face fines for violations. HIPAA was modernized in 2009 by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), which acknowledged changes in technology and updated the required actions that must be taken to protect PHI in electronic form (ePHI) by modifying HIPAA’s existing rules. Of the rules modified and strengthened by HITECH, HIPAA’s Security Rule and the technical safeguards the rule requires become the most relevant to IT professionals in the healthcare industry. 

The Security Rule and You

When the HITECH Act was folded into HIPAA in 2009, the Security Rule was enhanced to account for more modern technology solutions in use throughout the healthcare industry and the growing popularity of electronic medical records (EMR). The Security Rule outlines specifically three levels of safeguards businesses must implement in order to protect patient data: administrative, physical, and technical. Administrative and Physical safeguards are modeled around policies, procedures, and mechanisms to control access to data, it’s the Technical safeguards with which we are most concerned as an IT provider of compliance solutions. In breaking down the standards and implementation specifications, it’s important to note that the Security Rule is built around allowing businesses to take a flexible, scalable, and technologically neutral approach to compliance. Businesses are allowed to take an approach to compliance that reasonably and appropriately adheres to the standards and implementation specifications.

Access Controls

User access to data in a HIPAA-compliant system should be limited to the minimum required access necessary to perform job functions or roles. Access Control standards require unique user identification and emergency access procedures, as well as a way to implement automatic logoff and encryption and decryption of data in motion between storage and user interface. 

Audit Controls

HIPAA-covered entities are required to implement technical solutions for recording and examining user and data activity taking place over information systems containing ePHI.  

Integrity 

Compliance with HIPAA requires a system to include methods for ensuring data isn’t altered or destroyed and remains intact during the storage and retrieval process. This can be accomplished through a number of methods structured around ensuring users are granted proper access and permissions. 

Authentication

Generally, authentication requires systems to be implemented to verify the person or entity seeking ePHI by verifying proof of identity. This includes any combination of something a user knows (password), something they possess (dongle, key, token), and/or something unique to the individual (biometric data). 

Transmission Security

Covered entities must have measures in place to guard against unauthorized access while ePHI is in transit between storage and user access using encryption and integrity controls. 

Apex Technologies is Your HIPAA Compliance Solutions Provider

Complying with HIPAA can be a daunting task. Ensuring your medical practice has systems and tools in place to achieve the requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule isn’t an undertaking you should pursue alone. Contact our team of managed cybersecurity services specialists in our Charlotte offices to find out how we can ensure your organization achieves HIPAA compliance through our cloud-computing solutions.