hipaa compliance

The Importance of Professional Risk Assessment for HIPAA Compliance

Within the past few years, there were 4 billion confidential records compromised within the workplace. If you are a covered entity, these facts may be startling to you. After all, you work with private patient information, and those patients expect you to keep their details secure.

That is why hiring a service to provide a professional risk assessment for your practice is crucial. These professionals undergo extensive HIPAA compliance training that allows them to catch even the smallest of safeguard mistakes. 

Risk assessment is essential for HIPAA, but you should always leave it to professionals. Read about the importance of professional risk assessment for HIPAA compliance.

Why Do You Need Risk Assessment?

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), there are several mandates for covered entities to follow that protect confidential information. If you are an organization that saves patient or client info containing things like: 

  • Name
  • phone number
  • Address
  • Birthday
  • Social security 
  • Payment information
  • Health information
  • Insurance information 

Then you store public health information (PHI) or electronic public health information (ePHI). If you have these records on file or a computer, you need the proper safeguards to ensure that hackers or thieves do not get their hands on the information. That is where professional risk assessment services come into play. 

No doubt, you are busy running your business and interacting with patients. Yes, you can implement HIPAA training procedures and run an assessment by yourself. But, there will always be something you miss due to the busy nature of your job.

A risk assessment professional will come into your place of business and run an analysis to pinpoint weaknesses within your compliance strategies. You want to hire a risk analysis service because the repercussions of leaking confidential health information can lead to fines of $250,000 and up.

Along with that, your company’s reputation will be on the line. If it gets out that you have failed to comply with HIPAA guidelines, it could make your current, or potential, patients wary of visiting your business. 

At the end of the analysis, the professional will provide you with a report. That highlights the safety measures you have in place and what you need to improve.

Since the HHS requires a risk analysis, that report is crucial if your organization undergoes auditing from time to time. When an auditor comes in, they will ask to see your risk assessment report to incorporate in their process. 

The person who conducts the risk assessment will also take time to give you suggestions and light HIPAA training notes. They will suggest what you can do to improve and speak with your employees.

What Goes Into Risk Assessment? 

When a risk assessment professional comes into the office, they will likely ask questions as they run through your business. They have to assess what safety measures you have enacted for your employees to follow.

A professional will check things like: 

  • What firewalls do you have up?
  • Who has access to PHI and ePHI?
  • What passwords do you have?
  • Who has the login and password information? 
  • Where is your business located? Is it in a flood zone? 
  • How do you dispose of your PHI and ePHI? 
  • Do you use a secure shredding service?

By asking these questions and more, they help you create a better safety policy within your office. There are three primary safeguards that the analysis professional will discuss with you: Technical, Administrative, and physical. 

Technical Safeguards

The technical safeguards serve to protect patient ePHI that you either store or send on your computer. Hackers have a knack for interrupting servers when you send sensitive emails.

If you do not have firewalls and encryption, a cyber-thief can easily break through and steal the information. What’s more is if you do not have firewalls on your computers, these thieves can hack into your system and gain access to every amount of ePHI on your hard drive. 

During a risk analysis, the professional will consider things like: 

  • What is your data backup plan? 
  • Do you use a shared server? 
  • What safeguards are on your business website? 
  • How do you store ePHI? 
  • What are the recovery measures in case of a disaster? 

They will also see if your passwords are strong enough to keep people from guessing them. Many people create passwords thinking they are fool-proof. But the fact of the matter is hackers are well-versed at guessing login information. 

Administrative Safeguards

These safeguards exist to ensure that anyone apart fo your administrative staff is following HIPAA guidelines. Anyone who has access to public health information falls under this category.

A risk analysis will show you whether you have too many people handling your PHI. As a rule of thumb, you want to appoint only a handful of trusted employees to access usernames, passwords, and other information that allows people to view confidential records. A risk analysis employee will suggest other safeguards in his category.

They will want to know things like: 

  • Do you have a business associate agreement (BAA)
  • What are your plans in case of a security breach?
  • What are your office safety policies?
  • Do you update your policies regularly?

Along with this, the risk analysis professional will want to know how often you update and train your employees with current HIPAA compliance regulations. If the professional thinks you should educate your staff more often, they will suggest you look into HIPAA compliance services

Physical Safeguards 

The physical safeguards under analysis involve the measure you take to document who comes in and out of your office. Many people tend to ignore others who enter the building to fix things like electricity, power, WIFI, and the like.

During a risk analysis, they will ask you how well you store your PHI and monitor who is walking around the office. Another thing that risk analysis will tell you is whether you need more disaster safeguards. These are things that include fire and flood protection should an incident arise. 

How Often Should You Get Risk Assessment?

When it comes to risk assessment, it isn’t a one-and-done type of procedure. Things change both within your practice and the HIPAA guidelines. For instance, you may hire new employees, change locations, or get new office equipment. Any change can amount to a security risk.

So, it is necessary to hire risk assessment services to come out and evaluate any changes you make to your system, staff, or office. After this, you will have a risk management plan in place. You should take every measure possible to follow this plan as it ensures your risk of leaking private information remains at a minimum. 

For More About HIPAA Compliance 

As you can tell, there are several reasons why risk assessment is crucial to your organization or business. Hiring a professional who knows how to catch the mistakes that fly under your radar will ensure that your patients and practice stay up-to-date with HIPAA compliance guidelines.

They will also help you implement the necessary safeguards and educate your staff on better ways to follow HIPAA guidelines. At HIPAA Suite, we want to help you remain compliant.

If you need a risk assessment or have any HIPAA-related questions and concerns, please feel free to contact us today. We will answer any of your questions and get you started on the path to better compliance. 

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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