Today's small and mid-sized medical practices know the importance of becoming HIPAA compliant, but the challenges that stand in their way can be daunting. From lack of proper administrative tools to common cybersecurity challenges, here's a closer look at the likely issues you'll face as you work to obtain HIPAA compliance, along with technical solutions to overcome them.
1. Insufficient Device & Network Protection
Your healthcare practice's devices and network systems form the infrastructure for operations, yet device security is often overlooked or compromised due to seemingly "minor" aspects. Here are some ways to mitigate risk related to device security:
- Properly secure all email accounts. To be HIPAA compliant, all email accounts that send or receive PHI must use ID authentication with data encrypted during both transit and rest.
- Rethink employee-owned devices. "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) policies should entail strict encryption measures or be done away with completely.
- Stay ahead of updates and upgrades. Taking care of hardware and software updates in a timely manner is essential to comprehensive security.
Email leads to more breaches than network servers, computers, paper, film, electronic medical records, and portable devices combined, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Some email incidents can be traced to successful hacking due to improper cybersecurity systems, while others are directly tied to email policies -- a serious reminder that every element is crucial to HIPAA-compliant operations.
2. Lack of Data Security Controls
We're experiencing a digital transformation in healthcare. As more data moves online, it's essential that medical practices re-examine the way they process and handle client information and other sensitive data:
- Access controls prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing PHI.
- Audit controls track how data is viewed, accessed, and used.
- Data integrity controls ensure only authorized personnel can view, alter, delete, or destroy sensitive data.
- Data transfer controls ensure only approved and secure methods can be used to transfer PHI, both internally and externally.
Even these few demands can be difficult to satisfy. Updating your internal data management systems is a crucial move if you currently lack controls like these.
3. The Wrong Administrative Tools
A great deal of administrative resources must be devoted to obtaining and sustaining HIPAA compliance, but a combination of business limitations and technical challenges often stand in the way of sufficient administrative support:
- Failing to establish and maintain processes. Defining security measures is the first step, but only it’s worthwhile if the associated processes are established and monitored.
- Neglecting security training during onboarding. Overlooking employee security training can lead to a data breach. The onboarding process should include security training.
- Operating without routine assessments. Ongoing assessments and training are crucial to ensure the continued effectiveness of established policies and procedures.
Administrative tools can help your practice overcome these common challenges. The right combination of HR software and IT solutions will give your practice better insight into the implementation of processes and the employee adoption rate of those processes, along with enabling you to conduct and review assessments more easily.
4. No Resources for Risk Improvement
For smaller practices, resource-intensive assessments easily top the list of the biggest challenges associated with maintaining HIPAA compliance. These necessary and routine assessments often present two problems for practices:
- Conducting assessments takes a great deal of time and puts a strain on your team.
- Solving the vulnerabilities the team identifies requires additional resources you may not have.
When resources are scarce, you can outsource risk assessments if you don't have enough time or manpower to execute them. Regardless, your practice still needs to commit to routine assessments and come up with a reasonable timeline for addressing any and all vulnerabilities identified in those assessments.
5. Not Documenting Proper Procedures
Often going hand-in-hand with the administrative struggles of HIPAA compliance, failing to properly document and maintain processes and procedures is another hurdle to get past:
- Make documentation digital and accessible. All documentation should be created and managed in the cloud, making the most up-to-date versions easily accessible to all relevant persons.
- Define a regular review timeline. Creating a timeline and routine is crucial to ensure all documentation is regularly reviewed and updated, especially when regulations change.
Making documentation a priority will make administrative challenges easier to overcome.
Choose a Security Partner You Can Trust
Obtaining and maintaining HIPAA compliance is complicated and resource-intensive. Even if you can completely devote a full-time employee to the pursuit of HIPAA compliance, it can still take the typical office months to reach full compliance.
Overcoming the challenges outlined above is possible, but the resource constraints your practice is already facing can easily tack months onto the process. Ultimately, most small and mid-size healthcare practices turn to an experienced IT and security partner to assist them. Dymin Systems offers data storage, business support, and security management solutions to put your practice on the path to compliance.
Interested in learning more? Get in touch with a Dymin expert so you can improve the integrity, control, and security of your medical practice without straining your in-house resources.