The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that governs how a patient’s personal health information should be protected at all times. Through a series of regulatory standards, organizations that handle protected health information (PHI) are required to implement appropriate technical, physical, and administrative safeguards to ensure the security, confidentiality, and integrity of all PHI.
The requirements for HIPAA compliance can be bewildering and the implementations can be very challenging. Every healthcare organization beholden to the same HIPAA regulatory requirements even though the applications may differ in each organization. With technology becoming more integrated into our daily lives, healthcare organizations now also use software to streamline compliance activities. However, the market for HIPAA compliance software is full of misleading information and promises. This article will outline the key features that you should be looking for before investing in a HIPAA compliance software.
Self-Audits and Remediations
Many covered entities and business associates find it difficult to conduct internal audits and prepare for external audits because of the daunting nature of HIPAA regulations. Any compliance management application software worth investing in should address the audit issues head-on, both from the identification of gaps and remediation standpoint. The purpose of self-audits is to identify risk areas and should span over an organization’s privacy and security infrastructure. In addition to self-audits, compliance software should have features within that can help you drive remediation initiatives and track where your organization stands in regards to closing the gaps. In short, the software should help you track and manage activities you are implementing to become HIPAA compliant.
Customized Policies and Procedures
Policies and procedures lay the foundation for efforts that follow in order to become HIPAA compliant. After you have identified and closed down the gaps in your organization, you need to implement measures to make sure they won’t become a recurring problem. This is where policies and procedures play an important role. Policies and procedures should be tailored according to an organization’s needs. That is why acquiring binders with generic policies and procedures is risky. If your policies and procedures do not address the gaps you have discovered through self-audits and remediation plans, then the software is not offering you what you need. HIPAA compliance software should have some sort of features within that can help you create, customize, or update policies and procedures that you can implement in your practice.
Employee training is a mandatory requirement for both the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule. Your employees must be trained on the policies and procedures that you have developed and implemented in your practice. There are myriads of other specifications required for HIPAA compliance that employees must be trained on. Given that there are no specific guidelines on how many times should HIPAA training be offered throughout the year, conducting HIPAA training regularly has been the ideal practice besides annual refresher training. Compliance software should include features that can streamline employee training processes. The software should allow you to effortlessly add new training courses, assign trainees, set up training sessions and details of the training.
Arguably the most important aspect of HIPAA compliance is documentation. Before an official audit, you must organize all the necessary documents and better in one place. Not only is it mandated by federal law, but documentation can also help you prove that you have made good efforts towards being compliant. Modern cloud-based software is worth investing in because they allow you to build your plans and process the documents year after year.
Business Associate Management
Managing business associates can be a frightening task if you do not have the means for it, and especially if it’s a large organization. Large organizations can have as many as hundreds of business associates. If you opt for software to manage your compliance activities it should allow you to track and manage your relationships with your business associates, including the execution of business associate agreements (BAA). Many software also comes with readily available business associate agreement templates which makes it easier to execute agreements. The software should also be able to help you review and update BAAs to account
for organizational relationships or environmental changes.
Finally, compliance software should be able to help you with monitoring and managing breaches as they occur. If the past has taught us anything it is that no organization is exempt from risks. PHI breaches can occur at any time and in many several ways. Your software should have the means to document and report an incident to the OCR in the event of a breach.
You should have no problem illustrating your compliance efforts to the auditors as long as the software has all the capabilities we have discussed in this article.
A HIPAA compliance software can reduce your administrative burden and defend your hard-fought reputation by ensuring that you are always on top of all compliance requirements.
That’s the real value of a HIPAA compliance software: the certainty along with the peace of mind that your entire compliance plan can be managed from a single centralized platform.