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Ensuring Compliance with HIPAA Regulations for Electronic Health Records

Measures have been put in place to ensure the secure handling of sensitive patient information and protect healthcare providers from legal penalties and litigation.

Keeping electronic health records (EHRs) compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is crucial for ensuring the confidentiality and security of patient data. The HIPAA Security Rule outlines the necessary precautions that must be taken to protect patient information and prevent unauthorized access. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in severe consequences, such as fines, lawsuits, job loss, or even closure of facilities.

In this guide, we will discuss the HIPAA compliance requirements and best practices that healthcare organizations should implement to ensure they are in compliance with the law.

What are the regulations that must be followed to ensure compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)?

All healthcare organizations and those responsible for handling HIPAA-protected information are required to adhere to four regulations.

  1. Healthcare organizations must put in place measures to ensure the confidentiality of patients' electronic protected health information (ePHI) as per the HIPAA privacy rule. This includes electronic information pertaining to the patient's health, medical records, billing information, prescriptions, and any communication between a healthcare provider and medical staff.

  2. HIPAA security: Only authorized individuals involved in patient care are allowed access to confidential information.

  3. HIPAA enforcement: Those who handle ePHI must take measures to safeguard it and face consequences if found to be noncompliant with regulations. The enforcement rule deals with penalties and investigations in case of breaches.

  4. HIPAA breach notifications: Procedures for informing affected parties and authorities in the event of unauthorized access, disclosures, loss, or theft of ePHI. This includes incidents involving hacking or other forms of cyber attacks.

What are the steps to ensuring electronic health records comply with HIPAA regulations?

To ensure the confidentiality of ePHI, certain best practices must be followed.

Tips for maintaining HIPAA compliance in terms of privacy

  • Dispose of any printouts containing patient information securely through the use of a professional shredding service.

  • Make ePHI unreadable through encryption.

  • Create a log of access and changes made to ePHI, including information on who accessed it, when, and from where.

Effective methods for securing electronic protected health information (ePHI) in accordance with HIPAA regulations.

  • Implement technical measures such as firewalls, antivirus software, data backup plans, and network security protocols to secure electronic data. Keep all systems updated and patched to the latest version.

  • Administrative safeguards involve managing and monitoring access to patient data by authorized users through the use of access controls such as passwords or PINs.

  • Physical safeguards involve protecting patient data by ensuring the security of the storage location, including measures to prevent accidental or intentional unauthorized access, and protecting against environmental or natural disasters.

Best practices to enforce HIPAA rules and prevent ePHI breaches

  • Perform regular risk assessments to identify potential threats to patients' electronic protected health information (ePHI) and take measures to mitigate those risks. This may include conducting vulnerability scans and penetration tests to detect weaknesses in network security.

  • Implement policies and procedures that outline how to handle and secure ePHI, and ensure all employees are trained on these policies and procedures. Conduct regular audits and compliance reviews to ensure that these policies and procedures are being followed, and address any non-compliance issues promptly.

  • Develop and regularly review policies and procedures to ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations, and train staff on the proper handling of ePHI. These policies should be reviewed and updated regularly, at least every six years, to ensure they are up-to-date and effective in preventing breaches.

Did you know? It's important to note that other employers, in addition to those who are considered covered entities under HIPAA, also have privacy and security obligations under other federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

An electronic health record (EHR)

An electronic health record (EHR) is a digital version of a patient's medical information and history. It is a computer-based system that stores data related to a patient's health, including medical history, treatment plans, test results, medications, and other relevant information. EHRs are used by healthcare providers, such as doctors and nurses, to manage and track a patient's health information and to provide better and more efficient care. They can be accessed by authorized individuals, such as other healthcare providers and insurance companies, to ensure continuity of care and accurate billing.

Who is subject to HIPAA regulations?

HIPAA regulations apply to all covered entities that electronically transmit healthcare information.

  • All entities that handle electronic protected health information (ePHI) through the use of electronic health records (EHRs) or other technology are bound by HIPAA regulations.

  • Clearinghouses that are involved in the billing, repricing, or management of community health information services are subject to HIPAA regulations.

  • Business associates that work with healthcare entities and may have access to ePHI are required to comply with HIPAA regulations.

  • Entities that contract with healthcare providers or plans and handle ePHI on their behalf are subject to HIPAA regulations.

Advice: To use telemedicine while adhering to HIPAA regulations, select a secure telehealth platform, restrict access to sensitive data, and implement a cybersecurity plan.

6 essential practices for ensuring HIPAA compliance with electronic health records (EHRs).

Adhere to these key steps to guarantee compliance with HIPAA regulations for electronic health records.

  1. Implement secure storage measures for electronic health records (EHRs) by keeping them in a physically secure location that is locked and monitored.

  2. Implement a power-off policy for electronic devices when not in use or use a medical records management system with automatic lock feature to protect patient data.

  3. Implement a firewall system to safeguard patient records from unauthorized access by potential hackers.

  4. Implement a backup system for ePHI, such as utilizing cloud storage or online backup services.

  5. Destroy outdated patient records securely to decrease the possibility of unauthorized access.

  6. Educate your staff on proper handling of EHRs and HIPAA regulations.

​Advice: When evaluating a medical records management system, consider options that include HIPAA compliance features and robust security measures. Check out reviews to find the best options available.

Tips for ensuring compliance with HIPAA regulations when working remotely with electronic health records (EHRs).

To prevent HIPAA violations while working remotely, employees who handle confidential information should follow these guidelines:

  1. Work in a private, secure location. Avoid working on projects involving sensitive medical information in public spaces where others may be able to view the data or where unsecured wireless networks may be vulnerable to hacking and unauthorized access to private medical information.

  2. Use a VPN to encrypt your data while working remotely, especially if you're in a public place. This will protect your data from being intercepted by unauthorized individuals.

  3. Avoid using patient data in non-approved ways, such as using a digital calendar or drafting digital notes. For example, including a patient's name in a reminder to process their appointment on a calendar app could potentially be a violation of HIPAA regulations.

  4. Be mindful when sending faxes. To ensure the confidentiality of patient information, always use a cover sheet when faxing sensitive data.

  5. Use secure internet connections to protect patient information. Utilize the WPA3 encryption protocol and the Wi-Fi Enhanced Open Mode option for added security on unsecured networks when working remotely.

  6. Use strong and secure passwords to protect your data from unauthorized access. Create unique passwords for personal and professional devices and keep them in a safe place, like a physical wallet.

  7. Use updated antivirus software. Regularly update your antivirus and anti-malware software to ensure the best protection against potential threats. Some well-regarded options include Kaspersky, Bitdefender, Avast, Norton, and ESET.

  8. Implement a firewall on all devices, including computers, routers, and any other equipment that accesses ePHI. Additionally, consider using software scanners such as Vistumbler or Airodump-ng to detect any unauthorized wireless signals that may be accessing ePHI in your home.

  9. Be cautious when clicking on links or opening attachments in emails. Avoid clicking on suspicious links or opening attachments from unknown sources, as they may contain malware or phishing attempts. Verify the authenticity of email addresses and be wary of emails or messages that seem too good to be true.

  10. Change or hide your SSID (service set identifier). Your Wi-Fi network SSID is listed among other local networks on your wireless-enabled device. You can either change its name to mislead potential hackers or remove your SSID from the network list. At the very least, disable the SSID in public settings when anyone with wireless technology can pick up your signals.


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