A regulation was passed in 1996, called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA, that aims to restructure the health care industry by streamlining administrative procedures and increasing a patient’s privacy and security with regards to his or her information. Not only the health care professionals in hospitals, clinics and dental practices are affected by the HIPAA requirements, other providers who have access to personal health information like call center agents, medical equipment providers and insurance staff are also directed in this regulation. The enforcement of the legislation was not that strict for several years, with only a few penalties on those companies who failed to meet HIPAA privacy and security requirements for patient data handling. However, changes are slowly being done to apply tougher audits and bigger fines to those establishments that fall from the requirements of HIPAA. So if you work in an environment where there is a requirement to know and follow HIPAA guidelines and policies, you have three ways to be on track of being compliant to HIPAA.
The first thing you do in order for your company to be HIPAA compliant is to assign a HIPAA compliance officer. A course on HIPAA compliance should be completed by this person and he or she will be responsible to maintain and enforce the requirements of HIPAA.
All staff members have to be made sure that they understand the impact of HIPAA provisions and policies on the company. All employees should have the opportunity to have attend an ongoing staff training about HIPAA requirements. Depending on the level of access of a staff member to a patient’s data, the training should be made customized.
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Your next step is ensuring that all patient data is properly safeguarded. Thus, only authorized personnel should be allowed access to the information and records of a patient. If you have a computer system that contains these sensitive data, the system should be strictly controlled and loaded up with an up to date antivirus software. Likewise, there should be a regular back up of your electronic data.
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By doing the above steps, there should be no problem in ensuring the framework to meet all HIPAA requirements. Be reminded that the most critical part of the process is the selection of the HIPAA compliance officer and that the person receives the best HIPAA requirements training. After the assigned officer has completed the training, the officer should be ready to take the responsibility of setting in place the HIPAA requirements in all levels of the company, to train all staff about securing and managing of privacy of patients data, and to ensure that the computer systems are secure and have a regular back up. If your company needs to be HIPAA compliant, then these procedures should be met.