Did you know many clinical practitioners and businesses are susceptible to violating HIPAA? Sounds weird? Yes, it might be, but it’s true. As health care providers across the United States are increasingly shifting from paper charts to Electronic Health Records. It has become more important to ensure EHR compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
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No doubt the integration of the EHR systems automates administrative tasks with a high level of accuracy and efficiency. It can provide convenience, efficiency, and secure means of maintaining protected health information (PHI). But have you ever thought that the same technology that simplifies complicated administrative tasks can land you in serious trouble? Yes, it happens due to outright security failures and compliance oversights.
Failure to use the technology according to the guidelines and rules set by the federal authorities i.e. HIPAA_cannot only result in ransomware attacks. But providers can also face legal troubles, such as; imprisonment, or other civil and criminal penalties. Therefore, the integration of electronic health records isn’t effective until you ensure its compliance with the HIPAA. Clinical practitioners must understand the fact, that not all EHRs are made to be HIPAA compliant. Therefore, they must be very careful and cautious while choosing an EHR system.
Don’t make the final decision until you get confirmation that: the selected system will help you adhere to the HIPAA standards to secure patient data. Before diving into details of the possible gaps between electronic health records and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It would be quite insightful to discuss the basics of HIPAA and its common violations. HIPAA violations occur when clinical practices fail to regulate the use of technology and are involved in the following activities:
- Excessive use of personal devices at the workplace.
- Stakeholders lack knowledge on how HIPAA applies to their business.
- Improper implementation of the technology.
- Lack of staff training.
It’s pertinent to mention here that the main objectives of the HIPAA are:
- Secure transfer of the healthcare records among all authorized stakeholders involved in the care process.
- handling protected health information (PHI) efficiently.
- Protecting the highly confidential healthcare records from mismanagement, loss, theft, or cyber-attacks.
- Reduce the risk of health care fraud.
An Overview Of EHR Systems
The advent of EHR systems has replaced the paper-based methods of data collection and utilization_during health processes and clinical billing processes, with electronic ones. It enables providers to transmit the health care data in a secured manner. Which not only results in improved coordinated care. But it also helps billers and coders to get access to precise and up-to-date information. Which is quite helpful in preparing clean medical claims. Usually, EHR systems are used to store the following information:
- Patient’s demographic information such as; name, date of birth, gender, age, address, social security number, etc.
- Weight, body mass index (BMI), and body temperature.
- Appointment History.
- Complete Medical Records.
- Physician notes.
- Discharge summaries and treatment plans.
- Patient billing information.
This information is considered the PHI. Clinical lab practitioners are bound to store and exchange this information according to the HIPAA security rules. According to this, every medical practice is responsible to protect this information. Whether they manage it by themselves or hand over their non-core functions to a trusted third party. If you are thinking about outsourcing non-medical obligations, then you must join hands with HIPAA-compliant partners only.
HIPAA Compliance & EHR
To make effective use of electronic health records under the HIPAA. Medical practices should make sure that the EHR systems fulfill the requirements of the federal act. Which includes; physical safeguards, technological security, and organizational standards. Which are necessary to ensure compliance. Moreover, to check whether or not your EHR systems are HIPAA compliant, try to figure out the following concerns;
- Are your devices, containing PHI secured with end-to-end encryptions and strong passwords?
- Is patients’ data transmitted on a secure network?
- Have your administrative staff a complete understanding of the rules, regulations, terms, and conditions of HIPAA?
- Have you recruited a compliance officer to keep up with federal laws?
If the answer to even a single question is ‘no’ then it’s time to take action and ensure your administrative workflow is compliant with HIPAA. To uncover the gaps in your EHR_it’s the responsibility of the health care practitioners to conduct a regular risk assessment of the physical, technical, and administrative security measures. Failure to do so can increase the risk of cyberattacks, federal penalties, heavy fines, and even imprisonment in some cases.
Who is Covered by the Security Rule?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has established regulations to ensure the privacy and protection of certain health information. The HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule. However, these rules are applied to the following entities;
- Health Plans
- Health Care Providers
- Health Care Clearinghouses
- Business Associates
- Business Associate Contract
Tips to Ensure Compliance with HIPAA
Your EHR systems must meet the following criteria:
- Only authorized users are allowed to access the devices containing PHI.
- There must be a strong data backup plan.
- There should be a quick plan to address and cope with data breaches.
- The emergency mode must be present in the EHR systems.
- Users get automatically logged off from the devices after a certain period.
- Data must be encrypted with strong firewalls or other significant ways.
The clinical practitioner’s role doesn’t end with the implementation of modern electronic health records. But it is also their responsibility to take every possible measure to keep up with the security and privacy rules_ issued by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Furthermore, providers should conduct regular audits of their EHR systems to find and fix any loopholes, related to HIPAA violations.
To ensure the compliance of the revenue cycle management and the entire practice operations. The majority of medical care providers prefer to acquire the services of HIPAA-compliant clinical billing companies. Outsourced experts make sure that they align the utilization of the technology i.e. practice management solutions, EHR, etc, as per the HIPAA act. They are highly capable of saving your practice from financial as well as compliance challenges.
Are you thinking about switching to a reliable partner to keep your revenue collections management compliant? Then look no further than Clinical Lab Billing. It’s a HIPAA-compliant clinical billing company in the United States. That implements the certified EHR system to provide a powerful platform for secure data storage, retrieval, and transmission. Contact us today to keep your healthcare business compliant.