One of the biggest challenges for any software company looking to provide services to the healthcare industry is achieving and maintaining HIPAA compliance, and the strict protocols and requirements of the HIPAA compliance checklist make many business leaders reluctant to take this challenge on.
The result is that healthcare providers have limited options when seeking healthcare software solutions for work management such as CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning).
While at first glance HIPAA compliance may seem like an arduous undertaking, for many businesses, the security measures needed to be HIPAA compliant are already in place — and if they are not, they should be.
Achieving and maintaining HIPAA compliance can ensure your customer information is safe and accessible and provide you with differentiation in a competitive business market.
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a set of standards that governs the collection, storage, and accessibility of private citizens’ healthcare information in the United States.
Any company or business that handles or processes the private health data of US citizens must adhere to these standards.
While HIPAA is often thought of as a list of security protocols, its aim is to provide a better experience for patients navigating the complex world of healthcare services. Security is paramount, but every HIPAA regulation and HIPAA requirement considers accessibility and reliability as guiding principles as well.
The 3 Rules of HIPAA
Three rules govern and guide HIPAA compliance.
- The HIPAA privacy rule- These HIPAA compliance requirements restrict how patient information is shared. For example, the HIPAA privacy rule:
- Defines patient consent and how to obtain it
- Establishes rules for the rights of relatives and legal representatives
- Prevents the sharing of health information that can identify a patient
This HIPAA rule also outlines:
- What constitutes PHI (protected health information)
- How PHI can be shared
- A patient’s rights regarding their PHI
- Which organizations are required to comply with HIPAA
- The HIPAA security rule- These HIPAA compliance requirements govern the handling and protection of electronic health information (ePHI) using a combination of:
- Technical safeguards such as encryption and backups
- Administrative safeguards such as role-based access controls
- Physical safeguards such as keycard access to rooms and facilities where ePHI is stored
The guidelines in the HIPAA privacy rule regarding PHI also apply to ePHI. The HIPAA security rule is an added layer to these requirements.
- The HIPAA breach notification rule- The HIPAA breach notification rule dictates what actions must be taken in the event of a security breach, such as an information leak, an electronic attack, or a theft.
In general, companies have 60 days to report a security breach to the authorities (the Department of Health and Human Services) and to the involved parties in cases where a person’s information has been compromised.
For large-scale breaches, other protocols may be required as well, such as informing the media in the local area.
The components of HIPAA compliance software
While the rules of HIPAA apply to all organizations working with PHI, the following components are required by organizations collecting, storing, and sharing ePHI.
- Access controls- Access to ePHI must be strictly controlled at all times. Examples of access controls include:
- Role-based access
- Unique user identifiers
- Multi-factor authentication
- Regular password changes
- Automatic logout parameters
Access controls guidelines also include rules for handling the removal of access for former employees, providing authorization for new employees, and sharing information internally (both electronically and in person).
- Encryption- All ePHI stored within a database must be encrypted. This is often referred to as at-rest encryption.
Additionally, all ePHI must be encrypted before being transmitted and shared. This is often referred to as in-transit encryption.
- Backups- To prevent the loss of sensitive data, automatic, encrypted backups are required.
- Monitoring- Anytime ePHI is accessed or altered, it needs to be captured in a system log with details that include:
- The time of access
- The unique identifier of the person accessing or altering the information
- The type of information altered
Keeping all of the records captured in the system log stored and accessible for six years is another HIPAA requirement to consider for providers of HIPAA compliance software.
- Storage- HIPAA also provides guidelines for the physical storage of ePHI, including the requirement that all ePHI for US citizens be stored in the US.
As we mentioned earlier, if your company is not taking these measures already, they probably should be. Data security is top-of-mind for everyone these days and it only takes a single incident to lose the trust of your customers.
Fortunately, the tools you need to maintain this level of security are more attainable than ever.
HIPAA Compliance Verification
There is no government certification for HIPAA compliance. Instead, healthcare organizations rely upon 3rd party assessors to determine a company’s compliance with HIPAA guidelines.
These assessors perform internal audits of a company’s processes and create a compliance plan to help that company maintain HIPAA standards. These 3rd party assessors can train employees, implement tools and systems, and tailor solutions to a company’s unique needs.
When a company demonstrates to the assessor that its processes are in accordance with HIPAA law, they are awarded a certificate, badge, or seal. While these verification awards are not recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services, they are recognized by most organizations within the healthcare space. They are generally accepted as good faith proof of HIPAA compliance.
FreeAgent can help you maintain HIPAA compliance
FreeAgent CRM is HIPAA compliant and maintains HIPAA compliance through a number of specific practices and measures, including:
- In-Transit data encryption- All inbound and outbound communication outside our private data network is always encrypted using secure TLS 1.2/1.3 protocols.
- At-Rest data encryption- Data stored on servers in our private network is always encrypted using secure AWS KMS technology with periodically rotated keys, ensuring that physical access to disk storage is completely secured.
- ePHI (Electronica Protected Information)- All data is secured with robust access controls, including Role Based Access controls (RBAC), Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), and periodic access reviews.
- Backups- Automatic backups ensure the ongoing availability and security of data and systems.
- System logs- We store access logs and event logs to track all the login attempts and changes made to data.
- HIPAA security personnel- We have designated HIPAA security personnel in place, implementing policies and procedures to prevent, detect, contain, and correct breaches of ePHI.
FreeAgent is leading the way to a better workday in healthcare and the life sciences by providing flexible and adaptable enterprise tools that healthcare organizations can trust.
Try FreeAgent today, at no cost, and discover why we are the #1 user-rated CRM on the market.