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How best are medical practices prepared to address HIPAA breaches?

March 20, 2013

Contrary to the notion that government’s move to digitize healthcare information would enable healthcare providers, doctors, and insurance companies comply more aptly with HIPAA’s guidelines for patients’ privacy and security, there has been an upsurge in HIPAA breaches with providers being reported for breaches of some kind or the other. Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, which are made mandatory for providers seeking to attain ‘Meaningful Use’ status, have shown propensity to be manipulated either internally or by unscrupulous external elements. Either way, providers have been held accountable and penalized for breach of HIPAA’s mandate for ensuring patients’ information safety and security. With the cost data breaches being unbearable and providers or doctors’ credibility at stake, it is inevitable that HIPAA breaches are responded instantly with remedial measures, such as:

  • Replacing or removing the staff that may have committed the violation at a particular EHR access point. If the HIPAA breach is traced to an external attack, EHR access may need to be secured against all possible external threats such as hacks or thefts by manipulating EHR system passwords.
     
  • Parallel recommendation to improve the HIPAA program; an intrinsic part of such improvement program would necessarily mean reframing EHR policy and staff training or reorientation in accordance with changing EHR environment.
     
  • Apprising your EHR vendors of the need for better customizing the EHR systems so that you may possibly withstand any kind of threats to patients’ health data.
     
  • Establishing protocols for tasks, timelines and communication among the team to ensure everything on your EHR system runs as smoothly as possible.
     
  • Accurate and thorough assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected health information (EPHI).Irrespective of the compliance requirements, it is important that scope of the assessment is clearly defined, and communicated across the staff entrusted with the responsibility of conducting healthcare data in accordance with ‘Meaningful Use’ criterion under HIPAA.
     
  • Determining how personal health information (PHI) and electronic personal health information (EPHI) are received, stored, transmitted, accessed or disclosed.
     
  • Documenting HHS, which will require the analysis in writing, including material gathered and the corrective actions took to remediate problems uncovered by the assessment. The significance of such reports is that they act reference as well as proof during audits or verification by authorities.
     
  • Conducting periodic risk assessments to mitigate the possibility of a potential data breach.

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While providers or doctors may have some form mechanism to respond any case of healthcare data breach or violation, it may not always possible for everyone to have comprehensive set of measures, working to put their EHR systems compliant with HIPAA audits. Therefore, they may have to seek external help to keep eternal vigil on their data systems.

And, when it is the question of sourcing resources for such an array of data-related tasks, Medicalbillersandcoders.com offers to mediate for the deployment of best resources that have demonstrated expertise and experience in implementing secure and HIPAA compliant healthcare data management systems and processes.

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