All You Need To Know About HIPAA Security Rule

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rule helps physicians protect their medical information.

It’s one of the most critical laws for physicians. If you don’t know what it requires, you could get into trouble with your state or federal government.

This article is an overview of the HIPAA Security Rule.

We’ll discuss why medical professionals must understand it. We’ll also look at some of the components that make up this regulation, so you can learn how to achieve compliance with the rule.

What Is The HIPAA Security Rule?

The HIPAA Security Rule is a law that requires health care providers and medical professionals to protect the privacy of medical information.

It involves the implementation of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronically protected health information (ePHI).

The HIPAA rule also requires medical professionals to notify patients if their health information is compromised.

How To Safeguard ePHI According To HIPAA

Let’s look at the three safeguards of the new HIPAA rule. You must implement these safeguards to comply with the law.

Administrative Safeguards

Administrative Safeguards are elements of an organization’s policies and procedures that protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of health information (45 C.F.R. § 164.304).

Administrative safeguards include rules that help protect the privacy of individually identifiable health information.

Physical Safeguards

Physical safeguards are physical measures to protect electronic media, such as computers and servers, from theft or unauthorized access.

Physical controls are about who can enter a facility, where they can go, and how many people are allowed at any given time. The goal is to ensure that only those authorized have access to information or records.

Contingency planning is also necessary.

What would happen if there was a fire or other disaster? What would you do with patient records? How would you preserve data?

Contingency planning helps answer these questions by creating a plan ahead of time, so it’s not a complete surprise when disaster strikes. You can immediately take action to safeguard data and prevent further damage.

Further, every organization must keep multiple copies of its data in case one copy gets corrupted or destroyed.

Technical Safeguards

The HIPAA security rule requires implementing security standards and procedures to safeguard electronic protected health information (ePHI).

Technical safeguards are always challenging to implement. They need a significant investment in time and money and often expose the company to more significant risks than any other aspect of HIPAA compliance.

HIPAA regulations and guidelines require organizations to ensure patient information security and privacy. This security includes ensuring that data is protected in every use, storage, or transmission scenario.

What Types Of Data Should Be Protected According To HIPAA?

HIPAA regulations and guidelines require organizations to ensure patient information is secure and private. This includes ensuring that data is protected in the following scenarios:

  • Data in motion: Data traveling between two points over a network. Examples include emails, text messages, faxes, and phone calls.
  • Data at rest: Data stored on physical devices such as computers or servers. Examples include emails stored on your email server or your browser history stored on your computer.
  • Data in use: Data being used by applications running on physical devices such as computers or servers. Examples include emails being read by a webmail client or your browser history being used by an online shopping application.
  • Data disposal: Data deleted from physical devices such as computers or servers but still exists elsewhere (e.g., backups).

Email communication and all forms of electronic correspondence are allowed as long as adequate protection measures for all transmissions over the internet. You don’t need authorization under the Privacy Rule for email communications.

However, providers should verify emails and seek consent from patients before talking to them via email. Extensive risk analyses are necessary before email transmissions.

The HIPAA Security Rule Requires A Yearly Risk Assessment

The HIPAA Security Rule requires that covered entities conduct a risk assessment at least once per year (45 CFR 164.308(a)(5)).

A risk assessment must consider the risks and vulnerabilities associated with electronically protected health information and the likelihood of a potential breach.

The risk assessment must be documented and maintained as part of the entity’s HIPAA compliance program.

A risk assessment is an integral part of HIPAA compliance because:

  • It provides an opportunity for systems, processes, and procedures to be reviewed to ensure they are working as intended.
  • It also helps identify areas where security improvements can be made.
  • The assessment helps in the documentation of the measures and controls in place and their justification.
  • It helps achieve continuity in security protocol implementation.

Risk assessments should be continuous and regular to check for breaches and vulnerabilities.

The risk assessment results should help prioritize security efforts based on the risks posed by various threats and guide your security policies and procedures.

What Happens If You Violate The HIPAA Security Rule?

The Office of Civil Rights (O.C.R.) enforces penalties, generally $100 to $50,000 per violation.

However, many settlements are in the region of $1 million. The Department of Health and Human Services (H.H.S.) doesn’t issue penalties but focuses on administration.

Can You Go To Jail For Violating HIPAA?

If the violation is criminal, you could go to jail for years and face fines. These include stealing information from a medical record or selling medical records.

However, the penalties are much more severe if the violation results in serious harm or death.

Ensure Your Compliance With The HIPAA Security Rule

HIPAA compliance is a big deal.
The HIPAA security rule has necessary measures, policies, and procedures for ePHI protection but providers are free to customize their approaches in line with the specific needs of their organizations.

At Birzon & Associates, we can help you achieve compliance by creating custom solutions that meet your needs, both now and in the future.
We work with diverse clients and have experience building solutions for healthcare providers like you. Contact us today!