What does HIPAA compliance mean for your business?

Standard cybersecurity practices are not enough to ensure the safety of healthcare data for businesses in the medical field and their partners. If your company is in this position, you must become HIPAA compliant. Your business risks severe penalties and a damaged reputation for violating any HIPAA regulations—whether you are aware of them or not. 

As a business owner, you are dealing with highly sensitive information and a lack of knowledge will never be an excuse enforcers will accept. 

However, to adequately comply with HIPAA, you must understand what it is and how it affects your business.

What does HIPAA compliance mean?

Overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is the law that governs patient privacy and security in the healthcare system.

HIPAA requires organizations to adhere to 3 comprehensive guidelines to safeguard protected health information (PHI).

The 3 primary parts of HIPAA are:

  • The Privacy Rule: Covers how an organization handles individually identifiable health information. This includes entities subject to HIPAA compliance, such as healthcare clearinghouses and providers.
  • The Security Rule: HIPAA’s security rule covers the technical safeguards and physical safety measures an organization must take to protect PHI from security risks.
  • The Enforcement Rule: The legal obligations that allow the HHS to investigate, report, and resolve violations of the Privacy and Security Rules.

As of 2021, there were over 700,000 businesses in the United States’ healthcare industry, and it is expected that each of them was compliant with HIPAA protocols.

While run-of-the-mill digital security measures may appear to be enough to protect a customer’s PHI, your business needs to adhere to national standards for improved security and legal obligations.

What is a HIPAA business associate?

HIPAA business associates are organizations that provide services to HIPAA-covered entities. For example, a law firm dealing with healthcare providers, health plans, or personal injury claims. Associates must sign a business associate agreement (BAA) to signify that they can handle PHI for work-related purposes and have compliant security policies in place.

If the associate is found to breach the agreement, the HIPAA-covered business must report them to the OCR and the HHS.

Why is HIPAA compliance important?

HIPAA protocols are a more robust approach to cybersecurity, building upon standard practices to protect people’s medical information. Malicious entities will always attempt to obtain copies of your business’s information. 

However, HIPAA regulations ensure that your organization will not suffer severe ramifications if disaster strikes.

By complying with HIPAA, you can offer customers:

  • More autonomy over their PHI.
  • More transparency regarding the procedures surrounding the collection, usage, and sharing of personal data.
  • Peace of mind knowing their data is only being used by authorized personnel.
  • Explanations of the consequences for breaching HIPAA compliance.

Promoting a work environment that prioritizes customer wellbeing and safe cybersecurity practices streamlines business processes and leaves your company with a spotless reputation. 

This is essential for building and maintaining a solid customer base that will ultimately lead to more opportunities, greater profits, and enhanced organizational growth.

What are the penalties for breaching HIPAA compliance?

Penalties for failing to comply with HIPAA fall into one of three classes that provide in-depth information about the potential consequences of mishandling PHI:

Internal discipline

Internal discipline covers small violations and oversights that do not result in the serious loss or mismanagement of data. Problems can be solved internally via disciplinary action. However, if HIPAA rules were knowingly broken, the individual(s) involved can be fired, and the business could lose its HIPAA license.

OCR action

The OCR investigates cases of HIPAA violations and decides whether or not a business is liable for civil penalties.

These penalties have their own specifications based on the degree of understanding a business’s staff had regarding HIPAA at the time of the violation. These tiers are:

  • Tier 1: Unintentional violations executed with caution or no prior HIPAA knowledge. Businesses can be fined $100 per infraction or up to $25,000 for consistent violations.
  • Tier 2: More serious intentional violations, with a minimum fine of $1000 per violation and a maximum of $100,000 for repeated infractions.
  • Tier 3: Intentional violations that were solved during the appropriate time. This can cost companies a minimum of $10,000 per oversight or $250,000 for consistent infractions.
  • Tier 4: Intentional violations without immediate attempts to rectify the situation, such as forgoing the breach notification rule. Organizations pay a minimum of $50,000 per infraction or up to $1.5 million for regular violations.

Criminal action

Reserved for companies that have willingly breached HIPAA’s security standards. Criminal action follows:

  • Tier 1: Violations made under reasonable cause. Individuals can be fined up to $50,000 and face up to 1 year of jail time.
  • Tier 2: Violations made under false pretenses. Fines can go up to $100,000, with the individuals facing up to 5 years in jail.
  • Tier 3: Violations made with malicious intent, such as identity theft. This is the most severe tier and can cost individuals up to $250,000 and face up to 10 years in jail.

HIPAA fines can bankrupt businesses. To avoid this, it is critical that your company builds its security practices based on HIPAA standards and processes.

Leverage expertise and make your business HIPAA-compliant

From data breaches to human error, safeguarding your customers’ PHI is vital for health-related businesses. Electronic media and digitized information are the new normal, and your company’s cybersecurity strategy needs to be bolstered with proper solutions to ensure maximum protection.

The HIPAA-compliance services at IT Gurus were crafted from a deep understanding of HIPAA’s guidelines and their impact on a business’s daily processes. 

Talk to the team today to plan and implement a secure network that protects your company’s sensitive data for long-term reliability and efficiency.

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