HIPAA Compliance for Medical Offices: How to Become Compliant in 8 Steps

It’s no secret in the medical field that compliance with HIPAA is one of the biggest areas of concern.

In 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights received a record-breaking $28,683,400 for breaches of HIPAA. If you breach HIPAA, whether intentionally or unintentionally, you’re in for a massive fine.

If you want to make sure that your practice is safe and secure, then you have to have a comprehensive policy and office culture that does everything it can to prevent a breach. Not sure how to accomplish this?

Read on to learn about HIPAA compliance for medical offices!

1. Perform a Self-Evaluation

The first step you need to take in increasing your compliance with HIPAA is to perform an honest self-evaluation of your existing privacy practices. 

There are many potential risk areas, including your actual privacy policy, your office’s privacy training, how you physically transmit patient information, the telephone, the computer, and your digital security system.

Start with your privacy policy and work down the line until you’ve gone through every possible area where medical information could be breached.

This is especially important if you created your privacy policy several years ago and you haven’t checked for any change in the law since that time. Check the Department of Health and Human Service’s website for guidance materials that’ll make it much easier to perform a critical self-evaluation of your current policies and practices.

2. Get a Professional Risk Assessment

If you want to take your evaluation to the next level, then you should purchase a professional risk assessment for your office. This allows internet technology professionals access to your office and computer network to determine whether you have any weak spots in your office.

They evaluate things like how many mobile devices have access to protected health information and if there are any open ports in your firewall. Since most HIPAA breaches happen online, this is an incredibly important step.

Remember, HIPAA requires you to be proactive in the prevention of breaches!

3. Rework Any High-Risk Areas

If your self-evaluation and the professional risk assessment come back with areas that need improvement, then you will need to take immediate action to fix those issues. 

Make changes, and stick with them unless the law changes or new, better, ways of compliance come along. Being constantly proactive in fixing security issues is the best way to keep your office from making headlines due to a security breach.

4. Create a Culture of Privacy in Your Office

It’s easy to let things go slack in today’s busy office environment. Between patients in the office, on the phone, and online, it’s more important than ever to protect your patients’ health information from hackers and prying eyes.

This means that you need to make it clear to your staff that protecting patient information is one of your office’s biggest priorities. Every action that you or your staff takes should be done with security in mind. 

5. Post Privacy Notices

Once you have redefined your privacy practices, then you need to create a printable version of those practices to display in an area of your office where all patients will see it.

If you have a glass divider between reception and the waiting room, then try hanging it on the glass because each patient will have to come up to reception to check in. Be sure to print out extra copies to hand out upon request.

If you maintain a website for your practice, then you will want to do the same for the website. Display a notice of privacy practices in a conspicuous place on your website.

6. Train Staff on HIPAA

It may seem like a no-brainer that you have to train your staff on HIPAA compliance, but did you know that you should refresh their training every year to help ensure compliance?

This means that you should set a date on which your staff will be trained on HIPAA compliance practices every single year on top of the initial training they receive when they begin working in your office.

Have your staff sign and date an acknowledgment of training in the policies and procedures. You should also maintain a document that covers when and who was trained on HIPAA.

7. Always Stick to Your Policies, No Exceptions!

Once you’ve developed all of your policies and procedures, then it’s incredibly important that you do everything you can to stick with them. Make sure that your staff receives and reviews the new policies and procedures, and signs an acknowledgment of them.

It would not be acceptable, for example, to discuss an 18-year-old’s health information with a parent just because the parent is used to having access to that information. Strict compliance with policies and procedures is super important, not just for your patients, but for you.

8. Get a Security System

We’re not talking about a home security alarm here. We’re talking about a comprehensive HIPAA security suite that will cover all aspects of your office’s online presence and digital transmission of protected health information.

A good security system will include up-to-date legal compliance information that you can keep in your office.

It will also include things like staff training, risk remediation, risk assessment, and a team you can reach in the event of an emergency, among many other things. Basically, you want them to evaluate risks, implement changes to prevent breaches, and have a team available to minimize damage in the event a breach occurs.

This, in addition to in-office security measures, will protect your practice and give you peace of mind that you are doing everything you can to protect your patients’ information from being stolen.

Want to Learn More About HIPAA Compliance for Medical Offices?

HIPAA compliance for medical offices can seem daunting.

There are so many requirements and ways to accidentally breach HIPAA. The good news is that if you have a good game plan and the right compliance security system, you’ll be in good shape and have a lower risk.

Want to learn more about HIPAA compliance security systems for your medical office? We can help. Contact us today to see how we can lower your risk of breach!