What is HIPAA Security Compliance?

A. Leverkuhn

HIPAA security compliance is the idea of complying with a set of laws called HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA laws protect the confidentiality of patient records in a medical setting. Compliance with HIPAA generally means safeguarding the identities and treatment information of patients.

A laptop used to access medical records.
A laptop used to access medical records.

Doctor’s offices and medical facilities must always think about HIPAA compliance. Family practices need to be compliant, as do any other inpatient or outpatient facilities, or hospitals. Any business with medical records needs to be HIPAA compliant to avoid some serious legal liabilities.

Under HIPAA, medical providers must provide patients with their medical records upon request.
Under HIPAA, medical providers must provide patients with their medical records upon request.

One part of HIPAA compliance is to protect computers and stored electronic data. Patient records and other information is often stored in computers or networks. The leaders of a medical business must be sure to monitor their electronic networks to make sure that HIPAA security compliance is provided.

Another main aspect of HIPAA security compliance regards the use of patient data in the medical office. Commonly, receptionists, registrars or other medical staff will use patient information in the course of admitting, registering, and preparing a patient for care or consultation. In all of these interactions, HIPAA security compliance applies. Doctors and medical workers have to protect patient confidentiality by limiting access to the names and identities of patients, as well as what’s on their charts. In some offices, this means building elaborate structures for patient registration.

One other component of HIPAA security compliance affects stored paper records. Stored records have to be protected by locks or other safeguards. Medical offices must establish security for charts, files, and other physical medical records.

The growth of the industry around electronic medical records may make it easier for more medical offices to practice good HIPAA security compliance. There are many challenges for complying with HIPAA, whether patient information is digitized or kept in paper form. A lot of success in this area depends on good leadership within the medical facility along with professional expertise. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) encourages doctors to actively observe their offices and standard protocols in order to update them for HIPAA compliance if necessary.

All of the work around HIPAA compliance is done with the purpose of protecting confidential patient information. The idea is that patients have a right to complete confidentiality when they seek healthcare. Most medical facilities are pretty competent about keeping patient data confidential, but complete HIPAA compliance doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work and effort, and violations and mistakes do happen.

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