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Best Practices To Ensure Your Medical Practice Doesn’t Breach HIPAA Rules

Every year in the United States, scores of doctor and dentist practices are fined for being non-compliant with HIPAA law. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was put into law to protect patient health information. The Privacy Rule of HIPAA specifically addresses the use and disclosure of individual’s health information by healthcare providers and organizations.

The biggest challenge a doctor or dentist faces is to accurately and consistently protect patient privacy without crippling their business. Even though it can be a challenge, compliance is within reach for any practice providing that you ensure the following procedures are in place at your medical practice.

Computer Security

HIPAA security compliance standards apply to protected health information that’s either stored or transmitted electronically. Protected health information is defined as any form of information that personally identifies a patient. It is very important that you use the latest and most reputable anti-virus software on your computer system. It would be wise to designate a computer-savvy staff member as the person responsible for ensuring that your computers are safeguarded against outside attacks. It’s also important that you educate your staff on proper computer usage regarding the transmission of sensitive patient information via email.

Be Sure Your Staff Understands the Importance of HIPAA

Many of the medical practices that are fined each year for breaching HIPPA rules are those in which staff members have violated security policies. This is why you need to make certain that your staff understands HIPAA and why it’s important. There are many HIPAA compliance services out there which offer training programs designed to keep doctor and dentist practices compliant so if need be, get your staff professionally trained so they know what their responsibilities are regarding this law.

Prepare for an Emergency Before it Occurs

An important aspect of computer security involves the protection of electronic data from loss or corruption. There are many ways data can be lost or corrupted but the most common cause is due to some sort of emergency such as a fire, flood, computer virus infection or mechanical hard disk failure. This is why it’s absolutely essential to have a contingency plan in place that deals with the vulnerability of patient data during an emergency or disaster. The most vital part of your contingency plan is to have a backup system in place which should be a combination of hardware and software that allows you to retrieve exact copies of information if they originals are lost or damaged.

Consider your Business Relationships

It’s important to consider the business relationships you have with billing services, hospitals, labs and transcription services which are in your chain of trust. This is because HIPAA security compliance standards require medical practices to obtain assurances from business associates that they will implement the necessary safeguards to protect sensitive patient information. Keep in mind the fact that every entity you share information with electronically is an extension of your practice. While there is no set standard for chain of trust agreements, these agreements should be drawn up wherein every entity you share information with knows exactly what their responsibilities are with regard to HIPAA rules.

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