Saturday, October 1, 2011
HIPAA Security Compliance - Protects Confidential Patient Health Information
The stringent HIPAA security compliance norms, make it mandatory for the all the entities like hospitals, insurance providers, payers, billing services, insurance plans and medical personnel to strictly adhere to the laws relating to the safe transfer and storage of confidential patient health information. To achieve HIPAA security compliance it is necessary to implement few steps that have been categorized below: Establish Physical Safeguards: Computer networks play a crucial role in processing, storage and exchange of health records of patients between different health care entities. The physical access to crucial information can be safely managed by following these steps: * Creating and implementing a policy that authorizes only limited and trusted people to access the confidential patient health data. * Installing workstations and computers in safe areas of the facility and should be accessed by authorized personnel. Devices like computers, fax, printers and copiers should be placed in such a manner so that un authorized people cannot view patient health data. * All the computer programs should be protected by passwords and user ids to prevent, unauthorized access. The passwords should be securely managed so that unauthorised people cannot access them. * A security system should be in place so that it manages passwords efficiently and guarantees the safety of the patient health information whenever the staff members change positions or somebody leaves the organization. * All the storage devices, backup tapes and computer equipments should be accounted for and a proper log book should be maintained. * All paper documents that contain patient health information information, but not needed in the office should be shredded so that no body else can lay their hands on them. Enhance Computer Network Security It is necessary to maintain a proper record of the hardware and software installed in the facility, and understand their role in processing the patient health information, safely. Risk analysis should be done by creating a flow diagram of the work process so that loopholes in the system can be identified and removed. The computer network should be protected from virus attack or hacking by adopting some security measures mentioned below: * Install appropriate gateway security, which has has capacity to deeply inspect the web content and filter out unwanted elements like a debilitating software and virus. * Anti virus solutions, digital signatures, firewalls should be in place to negate any online threat. * Proper encryption procedure should be followed, while sending out crucial health data from the organization network to the public network. The information should be strongly encrypted to protect it from unauthorized access or intercept. * The security system should continuously monitor the network for any suspicious activity and alert the administration about unwanted deviation from the standard procedure, by raising an alarm. Educate Staff on HIPAA Security Compliance A well trained staff is the backbone of the successful organization. It is of utmost importance for an organization to increase the awareness about the importance of safe handling of patient health information. It protects the healthcare facility from lawsuits due to noncompliance of HIPAA norms by an employee or employees. The organization should: * Provide staff access to HIPAA compliant training courses and seminars to increase their knowledge about HIPAA norms. * Provide training in password management and virus protection. * Train on how to efficiently maintain logs and audits. * Carry out periodic review of workers' status of HIPAA security compliance training and update regularly them regularly on latest developments to hone their skills in managing safely, the patient health information. * Provide training on managing the backup system as per contingency plan, in case of natural or manmade disaster with the aim to protect the health data and keep crucial operations, running. Hence for an organization to achieve the requisite HIPAA security compliance, it is necessary to integrate smoothly the software, hardware and personnel so all of them work in a cohesive manner, ably guided by an administration that continuously monitors, provides feedback and places safeguards to ensure secure handling of the crucial health information of the patient.