The security of your organization is a high priority, especially when dealing with PHI and medical records. There are many causes of breaches in security, and knowing which issues pose the most risk for your facility is key. While security issues compound and grow larger based on the size and scope of your organization, having the right perspective in addressing these problems makes a difference in avoiding noncompliance. These five security issues have been identified as being the most common in organizations that threaten HIPAA compliance:
- Awareness, Training and Implementation
It is important that all employees, agents and business associates be fully aware of the security policies and protocols of the organization. As new technology is introduced and continues to change the infrastructure of the operation, compliance officers must make a concerted effort to keep all lines of communication open, encouraging employees to ask questions regarding new technology, its uses, and any other issues that may pose a risk.
- Unexpected Events
An unexpected event can create serious problems. They vary from natural disasters, inclement weather to security breaches. You must have a plan in place to handle these issues quickly and professionally. It is wise to conduct drills, revisit your disaster plans on a continual basis and make sure all employees are aware of all contingency plans.
- Smart Devices and Remote Accessibility
Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have posed challenges for organizations and their security policies. It is essential to work with the IT department to make sure all devices used on the campus are completely secure. Implementing a comprehensive training program, and conveying this information to any visitors is crucial in this process. Restricting access to PHI, having defined data wiping procedures, and restricting vendor access is key.
During an audit, documentation is one of the easiest ways to find deficiencies within your HIPAA compliance. It is important to have accurate, up-to-date documentation on every protocol used to prevent misuse of PHI and operate safely within the designated guidelines. Using resources like the HIPAA Audit Protocol and the National Institutes of Science and Technology HIPAA Security Rule Toolkit can be used to prepare and manage your documentation to stay in compliance with HIPAA laws and regulations. Having a detailed strategy in place to have the right documentation will help prevent ongoing security issues.
- Policies and Procedures
Many organizations have an overlap of policies and procedures, which causes inconsistencies within the infrastructure. There should be a designated compliance officer and/or team in place to review and update the policies on a continuous basis, taking note of any deficiencies, overlap and possible areas where policies and procedures are not being carried out efficiently, or employees are unaware of.
Understanding the risks associated with each of these security issues is paramount in developing and implementing effective strategies to remain in HIPAA compliance. The ultimate objective is to ensure your employees, business associates and other agents of the organization stay updated with any security protocols to comply with their directives. Keeping HIPAA compliance initiatives and efforts in the forefront of your organizational goals will help in avoiding these and other security issues that may be specific to your organization. Working as a unit is the most effective method in combating helping to combat the problem.