HIPAA IT Compliance: Let’s Talk About Cyber Security

Running a medical facility today means focusing on the safety and security of your patients and their data. Not only is this an ethical responsibility, it is also a legal one.

That’s why every hospital and health care provider needs to be prepared to maintain HIPAA IT compliance.

Being compliant is about more than just signing some paperwork. It’s about working around the clock to make sure you’re protected from an unexpected attack.

Being compliant isn’t easy. But if you want to succeed as a healthcare provider, it’s necessary. Here’s our guide to making it work.

What Constitutes HIPAA IT Compliance?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is incredibly complicated, but its basic goals are the same. Simply put, they’re designed to make sure your hospital is doing everything within its power to protect the data of your patients.

It’s incredibly complicated, but the two areas you need to be most concerned with are the security rule and the privacy rule.

The Security Rule

To be HIPAA compliant, your facility needs to be secure. That starts when you implement access controls. Access controls require that user identities be trackable through the creation of individual sign in credentials.

They also require that a procedure is put in place to access patient information during an emergency. This is good news for patients: while the act is concerned with protecting their privacy, it’s also concerned with preserving their safety.

In addition, there needs to be a way to verify that if somebody is accessing patient information using certain credentials, they are who they claim to be. Ways to do this include automatic log off and authentication procedures.

The Privacy Rule

The privacy rule is less focused on protection and more focused on intent.

We all know about confidentiality in the healthcare field. If you aren’t following this standard, you have no business being in the healthcare field.

What’s more important than the individual rules you follow are being prepared for the enforcement of HIPAA IT Compliance.

How Is This Enforced?

While there are random audits, investigations usually begin when a complaint is filed against a hospital or healthcare provider, or a breach occurs that the law requires being reported.

After the complaint is filed, the intake and review process begins. This means you’ll have to go through an audit.

The Audit

During an audit, regulators essentially try to figure out exactly what went wrong and how it could be possible to prevent this in the future. It is possible that they will find nothing wrong: but external audits happen for a reason, and chances are, if you’re experiencing one, something has gone wrong.

Make sure your facility has full HIPAA IT Compliance before dealing with the consequences of an external audit. To do this, conduct regular internal audits.

A combination of regular auditing and high-quality staff training will go a long way toward stopping violations before they happen.

The Consequences

If there is no violation of HIPAA IT compliance found during an audit, then nothing will happen to you or your employees. But if there are violations, you’ll need to deal with one of the several consequences.

The best-case scenario for a facility found in violation of the law is the prescription of corrective action. If this is the case, you should consider yourself lucky. The external audit you’ve experienced has doubled as an opportunity to review your cyber security procedures and make your patients safer.

A far worse scenario is always possible in these incidents. That’s the possibility of the government finding a criminal violation took place at your facility.

If that’s the case, you’re no longer dealing with the Department of Health and Human Services. Then you’re dealing with the Department of Justice, which takes your violation of HIPAA IT compliance far more seriously.

Ultimately, you can find yourself faced with a massive fine and even jail time. So don’t make a massive mistake by ignoring the necessity of this legislation.

Why Is This Necessary?

Why is it so important to avoid cyber attacks on your health care facility?

Simple: health care facilities must cope with an extremely high level of risk. Hospitals must treat the risk of cyber attacks as a cost of doing business.

When these risks are considered, facilities who fail to meet HIPAA IT compliance don’t just need to consider if they will be hacked and audited. They need to consider when that will happen.

The Rise of Ransomware

Ransomware is one of the top cyber security risks facing healthcare facilities. The way it operates can’t just cost you money: it can cost you lives.

Ransomware most commonly work by sending an attachment to employees via email. After it’s opened, the computer is locked and a demand is sent to the users.

The options are: either lose access to sensitive medical data or agree to pay up.

The reason hospitals are so often a target of this is because health care professionals cannot afford to wait for access to information. This is why Los Angeles’ Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital agreed to pay an anonymous hacker $17,000 in Bitcoins following a ransomware incident.

To make matters worse, the growth of cryptocurrency makes it unlikely that hackers will be caught. And even if they are, the damage is done.

Ransomware is another reason why properly training employees for HIPAA IT compliance is vital to running a functioning healthcare facility in today’s world.

How to Stay Protected

We’ve mentioned that training your employees and conducting internal audits will help you stay protected and ensure proper HIPAA IT compliance. And it will.

But as a health care professional, you have enough to worry about without being expected to conduct cyber security operations perfectly. That’s why you need to hire professionals.

We offer a variety of solutions to the HIPAA needs of health care providers. That includes completing documentation, training staff, and assessing risk. So you can rest easy and let us handle the work.

If you want to keep yourself and your patients protected from an HIPAA violation, contact us today.

HIPAA Security Reminders


HIPAA Security Suite has developed a weekly HIPAA Security Reminder series that’s FREE for all of us who are responsible for, or engaged in, the use and protection of PHI.

Pursuant to Section 164.308(a)(5) of the HIPAA Security Rule, the Standard states: Implement a security awareness and training program for all members of its workforce (including management).

This standard is part of our Best Practices Recommendations for HIPAA Security Suite users, but it’s available for FREE to anyone who wants to comply with HIPAA using the easiest, best tools available.

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