What Are The Three Rules of HIPAA?

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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) lays out three rules for protecting patient health information, namely:

  • The Privacy Rule 
  • The Security Rule
  • The Breach Notification Rule

A national standard is established when these three rules are followed, and health information that could be used to identify a person is addressed by these standards and privacy procedures.

Failure to adhere to the three HIPAA rules, compliance obligations, and security policy–or any security breach of electronic information systems through unauthorized access to electronic health records, confidential health, and medical history, or electronically protected health information–can result in civil money penalties (and even criminal penalties), a loss of reputation for healthcare professionals due to intentional violations, and even the loss of employment for an employee.

Businesses can face fines of up to $1.5 million for failing to comply with the law and addressable implementation specifications. As a result, if you are one of the covered entities under HIPAA, you must follow the three HIPAA rules and security management processes, taking appropriate corrective action when necessary.

Why are the three rules necessary?

For Private Healthcare Information (PHI): there wasn’t much of a consensus on what the best practices for PHI should be. But things began to change after the introduction of HIPAA.

In the beginning, there were privacy and security rules. Protected health information (PHI) was the focus of HIPAA’s new standards, which applied to the entire healthcare industry.

In addition to this, HIPAA’s primary goal was to improve the patient experience. Covered entities were given a variety of policies and procedures to ensure that their clients’ information was protected without a lot of hassle. Reduced paperwork, in addition to improving workflow, is a benefit to the covered entity.

To meet HIPAA’s requirements, code sets must be used in conjunction with patient identifiers. Health insurance portability is aided as a result of this ease of information transfer. With the Portability and Accountability Act in mind, healthcare providers are attempting to make the patient’s experience more pleasant.

HIPA’s rules also serve some much more minor purposes. Life insurance loans may be exempt from tax deductions, depending on the circumstances. It also improves the efficiency of healthcare services and makes it easier for patients to interact with them.

Who needs to have HIPAA compliance?

Private hospitals, health insurance companies, medical discount providers, and other business associates are all included in the scope of HIPAA’s application.

This type of business is known as  “covered entities,” and must abide by the HIPAA regulations and security standards. Exceptions to the HIPAA rules for covered entities are extremely rare.

A company or organization that provides third-party health and human services to a covered entity must adhere to the HIPAA regulations. As “business associates,” these companies are subject to the same regulations as the covered entities, even though they do not provide direct services.

The business associate agreement must be signed by both business associates and covered entities. Before undergoing any procedures, the confidentiality and integrity of PHI must be preserved, and the business associate agreement does that.

The three main rules of HIPAA

As mentioned earlier in this article, HIPAA legislation is made up of a few rules that outline what you must do to comply with the law. We’ll now discuss them in detail below:

1. The HIPAA privacy rule

HIPAA defines the circumstances under which a person may disclose or use PHI. Everyone has a right to privacy, but as we all know, there are some situations in which the rule might be applied. Those who are covered by this policy must adhere to a set of rules.

The standards set by the privacy rule address subjects such as: 

  • Which organizations must follow the HIPAA standards
  • What is protected health information (PHI)
  • How organizations can share and use PHI
  • Permitted usage and disclosure of PHI
  • Patient’s rights over their health information

In 2003, the HIPAA Privacy Rule was first put into place. That includes healthcare providers, as well as clearinghouses, and other health insurance entities. Healthcare-related business partners joined the list in 2013.

For the most part, the rule on patient privacy restricts the extent to which medical records can be shared without explicit consent. Allows patients and their next of kin (representatives) to access their medical records under the HIPAA privacy rule These requests for access and disclosure must be responded to within 30 days of receipt by the Covered Entities. 

Healthcare entities covered by HIPAA include:

  • Health plans 
  • Health care clearinghouses 
  • Health care providers 

The privacy rule restricts the usage of health information, which could identify a person (PHI). Covered entities cannot use or disclose PHI unless:

  • It’s permitted under the privacy rule, or
  • The individual has authorized it in writing.

The privacy rule does not restrict de-identified health information. 

2. The HIPAA security rule

The HIPAA Security Rule sets out the minimum standards for protecting electronic health information (ePHI). To access that information in electronic format, even those who are technically capable of doing so would have to meet those standards.

The HIPAA security rule covers the following aspects:

  • The organizations that may need to follow the security rule and be deemed covered entities.
  • Safeguards, policies, and procedures that can be put in place to meet HIPAA compliance
  • Health care information that is under the protection of the security rule

To put it simply, anyone who is part of the BA or CE and can access, alter, create or transfer recorded ePHI will be required to follow these standards. These technical safeguards will involve NIST-standard encryption in case the information goes outside the firewall of the company. 

In addition to technical safeguards, the security rule will include several physical safeguards. If you’re in a public area, you won’t be able to see the screen because of a workstation layout. Only a specific area within the company’s network allows you to do this.

Administrative safeguards are also checked, and they are combined with the security rule and the privacy rule. A privacy officer and a security officer are required to conduct regular (an ongoing process) audits and risk analyses as part of these safeguards.

These evaluations are critical to the safety of the system. When considering possible threats to the PHI, they don’t care if it’s just a theory. Consequently, they plan to implement a risk management plan based on it to avoid any potential risks that could occur in the future. 

A covered entity must take the following steps to ensure the security of all ePHI they create, send, or receive:

  • Ensure the confidentiality integrity and availability of the PHI
  • Protect against improper uses and disclosures of data
  • Protect the ePHI against potential threats, safeguarding their medical records
  • Train employees so that they are aware of the compliance factors of the security rule
  • Adapt the policies and procedures to meet the updated security rule

Confidentiality, integrity, and availability rules in health care must be met by the covered entity.

3. The HIPAA breach notification rule

Occasionally, there may be a breach. The breach notification rule comes into play here. The Department of Health and Human Services must be informed as soon as possible if there has been a data breach. Regardless of the nature of the breach, this must be done within 60 days of its discovery, this is where a good risk management plan comes in handy.

If a breach during administrative actions involves a person‘s personal information, that person must be notified within 60 days of the discovery of the breach.

In the event of a large-scale breach that affects more than 500 patients in a specific jurisdiction, the media should be informed as well.

An immediate announcement of a privacy violation is required by the HIPAA rule for breach notification. The Office for Civil Rights may impose fines if you don’t comply.

Alternatively, the Covered Entity may decide not to send a breach notification if it can show that the critical element of the PHI has not been compromised. A violation of privacy and security rules would be warranted if they are found to have been compromised.

Reportable Breaches and Exceptions

A breach of PHI occurs when an organization uses or improperly discloses PHI. However, they are only required to send alerts for PHI that is not encrypted. In addition to this, there are three additional circumstances in which the breach notification rule is more lenient, during such compliance violations and PHI breaches.

  1. If it was unintentional or done in good faith, and was within the scope of the authority.
  2. If it was done unintentionally between two people permitted to access the PHI.
  3. If the organization has a good faith belief that the person to whom the disclosure was made would not be able to retain the PHI.

Under such a case, the organization should ensure that such incidents don’t reoccur and take corrective action plans. Breach alerts are required only for unsecured PHI. If you secured it as specified by this guidance, then you don’t need to send the alerts. 

Partner with Wheelhouse IT 

You may believe that you can meet the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) on your own, and you may be right. A HIPAA-verified Managed Service Provider (MSP) makes it much easier to achieve HIPAA compliance than if you were to do it on your own.

To keep your organization and in-house IT department HIPAA compliant, you can rely on Wheelhouse IT. Some of the benefits of working with us include:

  • Conducting HIPAA security risk assessments
  • Encrypting all PHI and stored data
  • Implementing backup and disaster recovery plans to keep data secure
  • Identifying system vulnerabilities and providing high-quality solutions
  • Providing the necessary technology to ensure data security
  • Providing services such as Remote Monitoring Management (RMM), cloud-to-cloud backup, and authentication and access control

If you are looking for the assistance of an MSP for your HIPAA compliance needs, book time on our calendar below.

The Importance of Physical Security

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Business owners can face threats from anywhere, and with technology advancing protecting your business has never been more critical. Learning how to protect your business’s network and data infrastructure tends to revolve around protections against cybersecurity threats, but you should never overlook physical threats. Breaches can cause damage to your business’s reputation and cause significant financial losses. Using the right security measures can make a major difference in protecting your assets. Here’s what you can do to implement physical security measures to keep your business’s network and data safe.

What is Physical Security?

Physical security is measures put in place to protect your business’s personnel, property, and hardware from unauthorized access or from physical actions that could cause damage or serious loss. Physical security prevents security breaches and threats to your physical office environment. Many measures can be put in place to protect your business, such as security guards, surveillance cameras, padlocked or keyed entry tools to protect access, and more. Physical security should be considered a primary protection measure of an effective cybersecurity strategy.

Creating an Effective Physical Security Strategy

Three major components should are considered essential for an effective physical security strategy. Many modern businesses use access control, surveillance, and testing to protect physical assets and personnel from harm. 

Access Control

Access control allows you to control the access to areas within your business’s physical environment and restrict access to only those with authorization to enter. These access controls can be simple locks and keys, gated and guarded access, or controlled access through a keycard system only to allow access to specific personnel. Comprehensive controls will include advanced lock methods, biometrics, and alert systems to notify of attempted unauthorized access.

Surveillance

Surveillance is an effective method of physical security that uses technology to ensure any important access points are monitored to prevent unauthorized entry. Surveillance technology has evolved over the years from simple camera systems to heat sensors, motion detection, advanced warning or notification systems, and more. Advanced notification systems allow you to identify incidents, respond appropriately, and minimize damage quickly.

Security Testing

With physical security, you need to be able to act fast and to ensure your security measures are effective, and your security measures need to be regularly tested. Tests can help you find flaws or weak points concerning access to your critical business resources and anything that may affect your daily operations and allow you to correct them before disaster strikes.

WheelHouse IT can help you to protect and secure your company’s digital and physical assets. We have the technology and tools that drive a successful physical security strategy that considers all aspects of your business. To learn more, contact us at 954.474.2204.

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Tip of the Week: How to Keep Your Computer Maintained

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The modern computer is an absolute marvel, so it only makes sense that they come with an equally extravagant price tag. Understandably, when making this kind of investment – whether for personal or business use – you’d want it to last as long as possible. For this week’s tip, we clue you in on five valuable pieces of information you can do to protect your computer from wear and tear, extending its lifespan and functionality. 

Keep your hardware and software up to date

Would you believe some people can use the same general hardware for almost a decade before replacing it? By keeping everything updated, you could too! Most people using older hardware have upgraded away from the old hard disk drive (HDD) to a solid-state drive (SSD) and upgraded the RAM. 

Also, as much as you hate to hear it, you should never ignore those software update notifications. Keeping your hardware and software as up-to-date as possible allows for smoother program performance and less strain on the components of your system.

Clean your hardware regularly

You need to be cleaning your computer inside and out. Even though laptop computers are standard nowadays and we tend to take them for granted, they’re still machines with very intricate parts. These computers demand a clean environment to work optimally. So, be sure to perform regular computer cleaning. Keep dust out of the fan and crevices, and never have spillable drinks near your keyboard! 

You may be thinking: “Ok, but how do you clean the inside of your computer?” Regular file maintenance. Users with a high percentage of their local storage used up will undoubtedly find their computers get sluggish. 

Protect your computer

Because most laptops today are durable and won’t crack open at the first fall, people overlook protecting their computer’s physical well-being. But did you know that even if you don’t notice any exterior damage on the computer, frequent rough treatment can cause it to break down over time? So, our third user tip is to be sure to buy a padded carrying bag, hard shell laptop case, and have it plugged into a surge protector.

Run your antivirus scan frequently 

Viruses are a common reason that computers crash. So, a critical user tip is to run your virus scan frequently. You can even set it to run automatically when away from your device. A high-quality antivirus tool can help you avoid the millions of issues that computers can encounter from potential malware. Businesses should have a centralized antivirus that protects every device on the network to ensure software and information security.

Please don’t treat it like a light switch.

Your computer isn’t a light switch. You do not have to turn it off every time you’re done using it. This changes the temperatures inside, which in turn adds stress to the components of the computer. Limiting the stress on the system by allowing your computer to run while not using it can prevent you from needing to invest in new hardware prematurely. 

These tips may seem simple, but you’d be shocked how far they can go in protecting your computer. At WheelHouse IT, we keep businesses’ IT running smoothly and help implement practices just like these. Give us a call at 954-474-2204 to talk to one of our consultants about your company’s IT support needs.

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3 Cybersecurity Strategies Businesses Must Think About

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If your business struggles with network security, you’re not alone. It’s one of the most challenging parts of running a business, and even if you do invest a ton of time, effort, and money into your security systems, chances are you could still be doing at least something better. Today, we want to talk about three ways you can improve your company’s security without completely draining your bank account.

Encrypt Whenever Possible

Encryption in and of itself will make your data and communications more secure. Encryption scrambles your data so that it is unrecognizable to your average viewer. Encryption helps to keep your data secure from those who might harm it or steal it. Some common ways businesses implement encryption include virtual private networks, which encrypt traffic moving to and from your network to any connected devices. Other businesses might encrypt data storage, as well as communications. If you want to get started with encryption, a good place to begin is by calling us!

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication is a practice which attempts to make the password obsolete through the implementation of additional authentication measures. Basically, instead of using one credential to access an account, you use multiple credentials of various types. We recommend that you use something you have (a smartphone), something you know (a password), and something you are (a biometric) to keep as many accounts secure as possible. With so many barriers to your data, hackers are sure to hesitate against your network.

Practice Zero-Trust Policies

Zero-trust policies have gained a lot of traction in the business world, and it’s easy to see why. They are a means to guarantee that whoever is accessing important data on your infrastructure is who they claim to be. If the user cannot verify their identity, they cannot access the data, period. This goes for anyone, not just the average office worker. Even executives are subject to the same zero-trust policies. This helps to make data much more secure and controlled, and while it can be a bit tricky to implement, we recommend trying it out if you can.

Don’t let security be a major pain point for your business. Get started with better solutions today by reaching out to us at 954.474.2204.

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What Counts as a HIPAA Violation?

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HIPAA Violation: What You Need to Know

Health information is not always as private as you might believe. HIPAA violations can occur without your knowledge, putting your health at risk. These serious violations can result in fines, suspension of hospital privileges, including health plans, and criminal charges. We’ll go over HIPAA, what constitutes a HIPAA violation, and how to keep your health information safe. Read on to find out how to avoid this from happening to you.

What Is HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) ensured individuals’ health information privacy and security. The act establishes national standards for protecting electronic healthcare information and prevents healthcare fraud. It also requires covered entities, such as hospitals and doctors, to take steps to protect the confidentiality of protected health information.

HIPAA violations can happen without your knowledge. Only health care providers, their business associates, and the government can access protected health information. Individuals who knowingly obtain or disclose PHI in any manner not permitted by HIPAA may be subject to penalties for violations to criminal fines, and imprisonment for many years.

10 Most Common HIPAA Violations

There are several ways in which individuals can violate HIPAA. Some of the most common violation examples include:

  1. Unlawful disclosures of sensitive health information (PHI): This is when someone knowingly obtains or discloses protected health information in any manner not permitted by HIPAA. For example, sharing PHI with friends or family members, posting it on social media, or selling it to third-party companies.
  2. Unauthorized access to protected health information: This refers to accessing protected health information on another computer without proper authorization. For instance, accessing medical records of someone you do not know or shareseveralseveral your PHI with unauthorized individuals.
  3. Failure to record and log compliance efforts: This is when PHI is disposed of in a way that does not protect the individual’s privacy. For example, throwing protected health information into the trash can where others can easily access it.
  4. Failure to complete a risk assessment: By law, individuals must assess the safeguards needed to protect PHI. It includes what type of information needs to be protected and what steps need to be taken to remain private.
  5. Failure to manage threats to PHI’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability: This includes implementing safeguards to protect PHI from unauthorized access, alteration, or destruction.
  6. Failure to conduct risk analyses when appropriate to maintain PHI’s confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility: This often leads to HIPAA violations. It includes failure to properly password protect electronic PHI, including digital files, using unencrypted email to transmit PHI and unprotected health information on computers or networks.
  7. Inability to keep and monitor PHI access logs: This is a requirement of HIPAA. Access logs must be kept for six years and include the individual’s name, who accessed PHI, what information was accessed, and when it was accessed.
  8. Failure to enter into a HIPAA-compliant business associate agreement with vendors before providing PHI access: Under HIPAA, all covered entities who handle PHI must have a business associate agreement in place. This document spells out the terms and conditions of how protected health information will be shared between the parties involved.
  9. Failure to give copies of PHI to patients upon request Failure to set access controls to limit who can view PHI: This allows individuals only to view the specific information they are authorized to see.
  10. Failure to terminate PHI access rights when they are no longer needed: This includes former employees, students, volunteers, and other individuals who have had access to protected health information.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Health Information

There are a number of things you can do to protect your health information and avoid HIPAA violations. Some of the most important include:

Keep Your Personal Health Information (PHI) Confidential 

Avoid disclosure of PHI to anyone who is not authorized to receive it. Do not, for example, share your private health information with friends or family members who are not involved in your healthcare.

Make Sure Your Healthcare Providers Are HIPAA Compliant

Only give PHI to individuals who need it for their work. Ask what they plan to do with the information and if you agree, then share the data. For instance, if you have surgery, your doctor will need to know about all of your allergies.

Always Read Any Agreements Before Allowing Third Party Access to Your Health Records

Ensure you have read and understood the business associate agreement before granting third-party access to patient records. This document specifies the terms and conditions under which PHI may be used and the privacy safeguards that will be in place. Before any of a patient’s PHI can be disclosed to a third party for a purpose other than those expressly permitted by the HIPAA Privacy Rule, the patient must sign an authorization form.

Use a Secure Email System

When emailing PHI, use a secure email system to protect the information from unauthorized individuals. For example, the PHI should be encrypted and protected by a password.

Report Any Data Breaches 

If you become aware of security breaches, report them to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) immediately. For instance, if your health information is stolen from your doctor’s office, you should report the incident to HHS.

Review Your Notice of Privacy Practices

You should review and understand what PHI is included in the notice of privacy practice to know that you cannot share information without authorization. For example, a doctor’s office may consist of your Social Security number in the notice of privacy practices.

By taking these steps, you can help protect the privacy of patients’ health information and avoid HIPAA violations. HIPAA violations can happen without your knowledge, but you can take steps to protect yourself. 

 

By keeping personal health information confidential and sharing only what is needed, individuals can keep their health information safe and avoid HIPAA violations. This can be avoided through proper employee training and enforcement by a compliance officer or other staff member.

The Consequences of Violating HIPAA

Potential violations of HIPAA can face a number of consequences, including violation fines and imprisonment. Fines for violating HIPAA are with a minimum of $50,000 per violation, with a maximum of $250,000 per year for violations of the same provision.

Healthcare Employees who have access to health information who violate HIPAA may also be subject to civil penalties and imprisonment. For instance, a person who knowingly obtains or discloses protected health information without proper authorization or consent form could face imprisonment of up to one year.

In addition, all HIPAA violations have civil consequences as well. Individuals can be sued by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for breaching health information or disclosing it in violation of HIPAA. In addition, they can be sued by the person whose protected health information has been disclosed or breached.

The consequences of HIPAA violations are serious and should not be taken lightly.

Why Do We Need to Know About HIPAA Violations?

HIPAA violations occur every year and can have serious consequences. For example, what you do with your health information could affect the rest of your life if it is exposed in a data breach or shared without authorization. Also, what we share about our healthcare may impact others’ lives when they need to find a doctor who can treat them. By taking steps to protect your health information, you can avoid what may be a costly mistake that could follow you for the rest of your life.

Individuals need to be aware of HIPAA violations to protect their health information. By understanding the different ways to violate HIPAA, individuals can take steps to ensure their PHI remains confidential. Knowing what to do if a data breach occurs will help limit the damage if unauthorized access to PHI occurs. You should only share PHI with those who need to know, and all individuals need to understand what constitutes HIPAA violations.

 

Wheelhouse IT Managed Service Provider Offers HIPAA Compliant Solutions

Healthcare IT is a complex and ever-changing field. The regulations and compliance requirements can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned health care professional. 

Wheelhouse IT Managed Service Provider offers HIPAA compliant cloud hosting, disaster recovery, managed backup solutions to help your organization comply with HIPAA guidelines while saving you time and money. We also offer HIPAA compliance training and internal audits to businesses like yours. We know how confusing it can be to find out what’s required of you by law, so we have created this website as an easy reference guide to all things HIPAA-related. 

Our services are designed specifically for the Healthcare Industry, which means our team has worked directly with clients in your position before. Hence, we understand exactly what additional layer of support you need when it comes to security compliance issues like these. We offer a variety of different packages that will fit any budget or needs ranging from complete end-to-end management, including hardware installation/configuration, software installation/configuration, network setup/troubleshooting & monitoring, to remote 24/7 support and access to our secure HIPAA compliant cloud hosting platform.

If you are looking for a hassle-free, worry-free way to keep your healthcare data safe and compliant, please do not hesitate to contact us today. We would be more than happy to discuss our HIPAA-compliant hosting solutions with you in more detail and answer any questions you may have.

Please feel free to browse our website or contact us directly today at (877) 771-2384 to find out how we can help your medical practice, hospital, clinic, laboratory, dentist office, or other healthcare facility meet HIPAA requirements quickly and easily at a price that fits your budget.

 

We look forward to working with you to make your medical practice or organization HIPAA compliant, and you can be sure that because we are committed to helping healthcare and other medical facilities like yours meet their compliance requirements, we will do everything in our power to keep your data safe.