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How to Become HIPAA Compliant

How to Become HIPAA Compliant

How to Become HIPAA Compliant

How to become HIPAA compliant is a question that has troubled healthcare organizations and other HIPAA-covered entities since the enactment of the Final Omnibus Rule in 2013. There are many different requirements that have to be fulfilled in order to achieve HIPAA compliance, and not all of them are straightforward.

Understanding when patient healthcare information can and cannot be disclosed, learning how to protect data from unauthorized disclosure, and evaluating mechanisms that can help maintain the flow of communication within a medical facility are all issues that have to be addressed when a healthcare organization aims to become HIPAA compliant.

The HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules

An understanding of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules is key for how to become HIPAA compliant. The HIPAA Privacy Rule provides guidelines about what patient healthcare information can be disclosed under certain circumstances, and the HIPAA Security Rule provides requirements to safeguard the integrity of Protected Health Information (PHI) at rest and in transit.

The golden Privacy Rule about disclosing “individually identifiable health information” is to disclose as little of it as possible, as infrequently as possible. However, while PHI remains on healthcare organization´s servers or is communicated between medical professionals, mechanisms need to be installed to prevent unauthorized access to PHI.

Some Key Compliancy Issues

How to become HIPAA compliant requires overcoming some key compliancy issues – particularly when so many medical professionals rely on personal mobile devices to support their workflows. These key compliancy issues include (but are not limited to):

  • The encryption of Protected Health Information
  • Identity authentication and audit control mechanisms
  • Safeguarding against the interception of PHI in transit
  • Automatic log off of any device used to access or transmit PHI
  • Monitoring access to PHI and message accountability
  • How to remove and dispose of PHI once a message has been received

There are problems with each of these issues. For example, how do healthcare organizations find a solution to the encryption issue without insisting that every medical professional uses a compatible mobile device using the same operating system? How would authorized users feel if they had to log into and log out of their mobile device every time they wanted to use it? How can PHI be removed from a medical professional´s Smartphone if the device is stolen?

Fortunately, there is a solution – secure text messaging.

How Secure Text Messaging Helps Achieve HIPAA Compliance

Secure text messaging is an ideal solution for healthcare organizations researching how to become HIPAA compliant. The solution complies with all the requirements of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules with the creation of an encrypted private communications network that can only be access by authorized personnel via secure text messaging apps.

The secure text messaging apps work across all devices and operating systems, and have safeguards in place to prevent the transmission of PHI outside of the healthcare organization´s network. Because all secure text messages are encapsulated within the network, they cannot be intercepted – even when sent or received on an open Wi-Fi network.

As authorized personnel have to authenticate their IDs with a unique name and PIN number, their activity on the network is easy to monitor and all messages can be accounted for. Secure text messaging solutions also have mechanisms that can remotely delete PHI sent to a stolen mobile device and PIN lock the app to prevent unauthorized access to PHI.

The Efficiency and Cost-Saving Benefits of Secure Text Messaging

In addition to assisting healthcare organizations with how to become HIPAA compliant, secure text messaging has a number of efficiency and cost-saving benefits. The features that ensure 100% message accountability also eliminate phone tag – creating more time for nurses and physicians to attend to their patients and deliver a higher standard of care.

Secure text messaging has also been proven to compare favorably with the costs of alternate solutions for how to become HIPAA compliant. A survey conducted by HIMSS Analytics found that secure text messaging solutions were more than 40% cheaper to maintain than pager systems – not taking into account the savings made from accelerated patient admissions and patient discharges.

A further survey conducted by the Tepper School of Business at the Carnegie Mellon University found another benefit of secure text messaging solutions – patient safety. Researchers found that, when secure messaging apps were integrated with an EMR, medications errors were reduced by 30% and patient safety issues decreased by 27%.

A Secure Text Messaging Solution does not Ensure HIPAA Compliance by Itself

This article aims to provide information on how to become HIPAA compliant with the help of a secure text messaging solution. However a secure text messaging solution does not ensure HIPAA compliance by itself. Healthcare organizations still have to develop and enforce secure text messaging policies to ensure the integrity of PHI, and constantly monitor usage of the solution by authorized personnel.