Few regulations are as critical in the world of healthcare as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Passed in 1996 and enforced by the Office of Civil Rights, HIPAA compliance remains critical for healthcare providers and insurance companies alike. 

In today’s article, we explore technology’s role in maintaining HIPAA compliance, review HIPAA’s priorities and expectations, and discuss steps for implementing compliant solutions. 

Understanding HIPAA Compliance

As with any government regulation, HIPAA is a monstrously complex piece of legislation. It is also continuously updated to keep up with changes in technology and the healthcare industry. Thankfully, HIPAA’s requirements can be summed up with three primary rules, all of which deal with people’s protected health information (PHI) and how covered entities must handle it:

  • The Privacy Rule requires that PHI, such as medical records and patient plans, be shared only with authorized parties and often only with the patient’s consent. The Privacy Rule also establishes that individuals have the right to access their PHI or request corrections. 
  • The Security Rule lays out the standards for protecting PHI. The Security Rule requires administrative, physical, and digital safeguards for PHI, which makes HIPAA-compliant technology a critical concern for healthcare providers. 
  • The Breach Notification Rule requires that HIPAA-covered entities notify their business associates and customers in the event of a data breach. Factors such as the extent of information involved, who accessed the information, and the risk associated with the compromised information all influence whether or not a notification must be sent out. 

The Role of Technology in Ensuring HIPAA Compliance

Given how ubiquitous digital health records have become, using HIPAA-compliant technology has become one of the top priorities for healthcare providers. “Old-school” analog security measures like locks and keys are useless when storing personal health information on cloud-based servers miles from the hospital. 

However, HIPAA compliance requires more than just subscribing to an EHR solution like Epic or Cerner. HIPAA technology must be implemented correctly and backed up with measures like RFID-enabled sign-in and automated logout. Staff must be trained on security and privacy measures, and data must be encrypted when not in use. 

Perhaps most importantly, digital healthcare tools with robust security features must also be used. This can be medical computers that utilize RFID or biometric technologies for access control, trusted encryption services like Imprivata to protect data while it isn’t in use, and secure messaging formats to prevent prying eyes from snooping on communication between providers and patients. 

Criteria for HIPAA-Compliant Technology

To be considered HIPAA-compliant, technology must implement multiple safeguards that protect data stored, transmitted, or displayed. These safeguards include the following:

    • Access control: This safeguard requires implementing technologies and policies that allow only authorized users to access PHI. Even then, they should only be able to access the minimum necessary to do their jobs. This often means unique log-in credentials and identification for every employee, automatically logging users out after a period of inactivity and encrypting data that is not currently in use. 
  • Audit control: Another key component of HIPAA technology requirements is the ability to record and examine activity in information systems containing PHI. This allows auditors to investigate suspicious activity that could indicate a data breach.
  • Integrity control: Integrity control ensures that PHI files are not improperly altered or destroyed by accident or malicious actors. Proper integrity control can include mechanisms for authenticating changes to PHI and ways to roll back or nullify unauthorized changes. 
  • Authentication: Authentication methods allow security systems to ensure that the person attempting to access PHI is who they say they are. This often requires something wholly unique to the individual and cannot be replicated, such as a smart card, a key with no duplicates, or the use of biometric information such as fingerprints or iris patterns. 
  • Transmission security: Under HIPAA’s Security Rule, data transmitted from one device to another must be securely encrypted. This ensures that even if the data is intercepted, it is useless to malicious actors. The rule also requires healthcare providers to implement measures that ensure transmitted PHI cannot be modified while in transit. Transmission security is vital for interoperability, which depends on being able to safely and securely share data between different groups. 

Implementing HIPAA-Compliant Solutions

When trying to achieve HIPAA compliance, having a well-thought-out plan is essential. For implementing new HIPAA-compliant technology, these are some of the steps you should follow during the preparation phase:

  1. Determine which HIPAA rules apply to your organization.
  2. Appoint privacy and security officers whose job is to analyze HIPAA regulations and determine how to meet them. 
  3. Review what forms of personal health information your company uses and how they must be protected. 
  4. Create processes for reporting and responding to data breaches. 
  5. Develop and execute a risk assessment process to determine where your security systems are most vulnerable. 
  6. Stay up to date on changes to HIPAA regulations.

The most important thing when implementing new solutions is to stay active. You should always look for new and effective training methods, develop policies, and audit your existing methods for potential weaknesses or oversights. 

The last and most critical part is the risk assessment process. This often entails testing your security and privacy defenses to identify vulnerabilities and how your IT team can patch them. Once these vulnerabilities are identified, you can adjust your training methods or security efforts to cover them. 

Examples of HIPAA-Compliant Technology 

Given how much modern healthcare groups rely on digital technology, implementing HIPAA-compliant tools is not just recommended—it’s necessary. Therefore, a proper medical-grade electronic device will be designed with HIPAA requirements in mind. 

Medical-Grade Computers

A computer designed specifically for healthcare will feature design elements that adhere to HIPAA rules. For example, a medical computer can achieve access control by implementing RFID-controlled access, where an employee must scan their ID card at the computer’s RFID reader before logging in and accessing a patient’s records. 

Imprivata Encryption

As previously mentioned, HIPAA requires that data be stored and transmitted in an encrypted format to prevent cybercriminals from accessing it. Imprivata’s digital identity and encryption services fulfill this requirement and help ensure that even if a malicious actor downloads a patient’s information, it will be useless to them. 

Medical-Grade Tablets

Similar to their PC cousins, medical-grade tablets will implement access control features to prevent unauthorized individuals from using the device. This often takes the form of biometric security, such as fingerprint readers. Since fingerprints are unique to the individual, it is easy to limit access to only those with the correct fingerprints. 

Privacy Screens

Privacy screens may be relatively low-tech, but they are an ideal solution for “visual hacking,” where criminals access data simply by spotting it on a screen. A chemically polarized screen either built into a computer’s monitor or attached to the front prevents anyone but the person currently using the computer from spying on the screen’s contents. 

Achieve HIPAA Compliance with Cybernet Computers and Tablets

HIPAA remains the greatest regulatory concern for healthcare groups and will likely continue to be so for years to come. Thus, any choice of medical devices and digital equipment must be made with HIPAA as a top priority.

If your organization is concerned with meeting HIPAA compliance and is looking for the tech to do so, contact the experts at Cybernet Manufacturing. We’d be happy to explain how our computers are designed with HIPAA compliance in mind and include features that help you maintain it. 

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