HIPAA IT compliance for personal injury law firms: A guide

The personal injury sector within the American legal industry is as busy as it is vital. More than 400,000 personal injury claims are made every year, and legal firms that deal with them are expected to uphold the highest standards of client confidentiality and data security.

According to a 2020 survey, 29% of firms had encountered a security breach. With the continuous evolution of the cyber threat landscape (not to mention the growing persistence of threat actors), it is safe to say that no legal professional is safe from the dangers of cybercrime.

While it may seem like a daunting force that weighs over the heads of you and your colleagues, HIPAA IT compliance provides organizations with an incentive to take proactive measures to protect their data and client information. By adhering to HIPAA and its guidelines, you can ensure that your personal injury law firm is compliant and ready to respond to any cyber threats that threaten the integrity and functionality of your practice.

What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) refers to a federal law imposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and monitored by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). HIPAA regulates the privacy and security of protected health information (PHI).

HIPAA applies to all organizations that receive or collect confidential health-related information, such as healthcare providers and their partners (aka business associates).

Generally speaking, the law is designed to protect the privacy of individuals’ information at rest and in transit within the business environment. Its standards touch upon various use cases and scenarios, such as how data must be collected, stored, and shared.

What are the three rules of HIPAA?

While HIPAA consists of a wide range of regulations, there are three primary ones that personal injury lawyers must keep in mind to ensure HIPAA IT compliance.

If an organization were to follow the rules above, it would be in compliance with HIPAA, reassuring the company’s clients that their medical information is being handled securely and ethically. Personal injury law firms are required to follow suit as they fall under the label of ‘business associate’.

What is a business associate?

A business associate is an entity that assists a healthcare organization in meeting its medical obligations to clients. In other words, a third-party service provider or agent that assists a HIPAA-covered entity with its work (i.e., an organization that offers IT support for law firms dealing with personal injury cases) is considered a business associate under HIPAA because they deal with people’s PHI, whether it is electronic or not.

A business associate must comply with the law’s administrative, technical, and physical safeguard requirements. In this case, personal injury lawyers leverage their clients’ medical records and information to fight their cases. The data is related to the client’s health, and it could be used to identify them in the event of a successful data breach.

Because of the nature of the data within their network, personal injury law firms are covered by HIPAA. You ought to be aware of the compliance requirements and take steps to protect your data and client information.

What are the consequences of breaking HIPAA?

HIPAA violations occur when companies exercise behaviors that are not in line with HIPAA. While these actions may take various forms, they all result in a list of consequences that can negatively impact you, your practice, your team members, and your clients.

Breaking HIPAA can lead to:

Penalties take the form of civil fines and criminal fines, each with different specifications. “Penalty amounts are adjusted annually” to factor in any increases in the cost of living.

Civil fines
Criminal fines

You and your colleagues have worked night and day to build your firm into an institution that exemplifies the ideal qualities of a personal injury law firm. Willingly breaking HIPAA can quickly undo everybody’s work—a less-than-ideal outcome. However, by investing in your HIPAA efforts, your practice will have an easier time keeping its PHI and reputation secure.

How can personal injury law firms become HIPAA compliant?

Ensuring that your law firm is HIPAA compliant is fairly straightforward. Law firms that deal with personal injuries can become HIPAA compliant by following a set of steps. In short, they include:

Additionally, personal injury legal professionals can invest in a HIPAA-compliant law firm IT support provider.

What is HIPAA-compliant IT support for law firms?

Law firm IT support delivered by a managed IT service provider (MSP)—that has experience working with covered entities and their business associates—is considered HIPAA-compliant IT support. It goes beyond standard IT support services and approaches technological upkeep from the lens of HIPAA IT compliance.

HIPAA-centric law firm IT support services can include:

Like all legal workers, personal injury lawyers have a responsibility to their clients’ data and privacy. A HIPAA-compliant IT support provider can help prevent you from being noncompliant with up-to-date technology that is capable of protecting your network and PHI with the latest security solutions.

What are the benefits of HIPAA-centric law firm IT support?

Industry-specific IT support can provide covered entities with the technical services they need to remain operational. Rather than offering run-of-the-mill support, IT solutions providers that are experts in HIPAA can provide tailored support that ensures your organization is compliant with any laws.

Specifically, the benefits include: 

IT support for law firms with a HIPAA touch

The workplace of personal injury law firms is filled with PHI that must be protected under HIPAA. And when it comes to safeguarding your client’s information, there is no substitute for a seasoned IT professional with expertise in HIPAA IT compliance. 

The HIPAA-compliant IT services at IT Gurus can help your personal injury law firm grow its competitive edge while remaining secure and compliant with HIPAA. Get in touch with the IT and HIPAA experts at IT Gurus today to enhance the protection of your clients’ PHI.

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