Accessing patient information online is becoming more prevalent every passing year. In 2020, telehealth saw a 154% increase in use because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthcare organizations that transmit any electronic information connected to any transactions must figure out how to become HIPAA compliant quickly.
But what does HIPAA compliance look like? More importantly, how long is this process going to take?
Those are some of the questions we’ll be answering today. In this article, we’ll address what being HIPAA compliant means, what affects the compliance timeframe, and how long it’ll likely take your organization to achieve compliance.
What Is HIPAA Compliance?
The U.S. Office of Civil Rights enforces HIPAA’s privacy, security, and breach notification protocols. When it comes to HIPAA compliance, security is the key factor.
The biggest HIPAA security challenge is often protecting patient health information or PHI. Since healthcare organizations started taking up electronic records, it’s become harder than ever to securely store PHI.
As such, HIPAA sets the standard for protecting sensitive patient information. Organizations that deal with PHI must have network, physical, and process security measures to show that they’re HIPAA compliant.
Which Organizations Need to be HIPAA Certified?
Anyone who accesses PHI is ultimately responsible for complying with HIPAA requirements. Mishandling patient information can result in criminal charges.
In terms of who needs HIPAA certification the most, there are two main groups: covered entities and business associates.
Covered entities are usually healthcare providers, healthcare clearinghouses, or any other organization that electronically transmits patient information. This could be your doctor, pharmacist, dentist, or even your health insurance companies.
Business associates, in this case, are people that perform functions that use PHI or need to disclose it in some way. They often do so on behalf of another covered entity.
Factors Related to HIPAA Certification
As much as we’d like to give you a single answer for how long HIPAA certification takes, we simply can’t. Simply put, there are just too many variables.
Someone will need to assess your own network, systems, and technology to get the full scope of your certification timeframe. For this, you can contact a certified HIPAA privacy association to give you an assessment.
If you want to punch in a few numbers and estimate for yourself, the following are key variables that affect your HIPAA certification time frame.
What type of healthcare organization are you? A hospital? Business associate?
The organizational type affects the requirements that need to be met to adequately protect your patient information. An IT associate for a clinic with a dozen patients will have fewer boxes to tick when getting a HIPAA certification than a hospital with more responsibilities.
Some organizations might prioritize data security more than others. Some might be built with tight security in mind. Healthcare systems that haven’t put a lot of thought into HIPAA compliance will probably take longer than those that have.
The bigger an organization is, the more PHI they oversee, and the more vulnerable they are. This could add a lot more time to your HIPAA certification timeframe because of all the resources it’ll likely take.
By environment, we’re mostly talking about the technology and other related resources available. If you’re using outdated computers, devices, operating systems, and server models, you’re most likely looking at a longer timeframe.
A HIPAA certified cloud is becoming more prominent in today’s healthcare landscape, and it can certainly affect how quickly you can get a certification.
If you need HIPAA certification, you might look at a certified HIPAA privacy association or similar consultants to get your organization in good shape before moving forward with the process.
This can greatly reduce your certification timeframe since you’ll have most of the necessary information already in order.
Become HIPAA Compliant Today
Getting HIPAA certified is definitely labor-intensive but important in a world where healthcare is becoming increasingly digitized and under constant cyber attack. Contact us today for information to get your organization HIPAA compliant.
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