HIPAA Compliance and Healthcare Information

When the Final Omnibus Rule enacted legislation regarding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 2013, it raised issues for healthcare groups and other covered entities about HIPAA compliance and healthcare data storage and communication.

In a healthcare environment in particular, the heightened use of mobile devices in the workplace has driven efficiency and speeded up communications. However the new regulations in relation to storing and communicating healthcare information in compliance with HIPAA effectively mean that “traditional” channels of mobile communication – including email and SMS – are no longer thought of as secure.

The Importance of the HIPAA Security Rule

Most of the relevant legislation in relation to HIPAA compliance and healthcare information is included within the HIPAA Security Rule. The HIPAA Security Rule includes specific physical, technical and administrative security measures to stop healthcare information from being compromised when it is at rest or in transit.

  • The Physical Safeguards call for best practices to be implemented to manage the protection of the physical environment in which computer systems where healthcare information is stored. The buildings must be protected from fire, other environmental dangers and intrusion – both physical intrusion and online intrusion (hacking).
  • The control of who is able to access healthcare information and how it is sent is covered in the Technical Safeguards. These safeguards state that the conditions under which communicating healthcare information in compliance with HIPAA is thought of as be secure and mechanisms that must be put in place for authorized users to authenticate their identity.
  • Lastly, the Administrative Safeguards relate to the selection and implementation of a solution to adhere with the HIPAA Security Rule, the reviewing of activity on the solution, and the completing of risk assessments to ensure HIPAA compliance, and that healthcare information is not in danger of being compromised when it is accessed or sent by authorized users.

Secure Messaging Solutions Meet the Security Rule Safeguards

Secure messaging solutions meet the security rule safeguards for HIPAA compliance and healthcare information storage and communication by encrypting patient data in a cloud-based “Software-as-a-Service” environment. System administrators designate unique usernames and PIN codes to authorized users, who can then access patient data and communicate with other authorized users through a secure messaging app downloaded onto a desktop computer or mobile device.

The secure messaging solution for HIPAA compliance and healthcare information permits authorized users to exchange information, send images and collaborate on patient care within the healthcare group’s private network. All activity on the network is monitored to make sure secure messaging policies are being adhered to, while safeguards exist to stop accidental and malicious breaches of patient data, or unauthorized access of protected health information.

These security measures include “message lifespans” and “app time-outs” so that messages self-destruct after a predetermined duration of time, or the apps time-out after a period of inactivity. Administrators have the ability to PIN-lock the applications in the event that a desktop computer or mobile device is stolen, while audit reports help administrators in completing risk assessments and the reporting of Clinical Quality Measures for the Meaningful Use incentive program.

The Advantages of Communicating Healthcare Information in Accordance with HIPAA

Due to the secure messaging apps having a familiar text-like interface that most people will be familiar with, none of the speed and convenience of mobile technology is missing when healthcare groups implement a secure messaging solution for HIPAA compliance and healthcare data integrity.

Many healthcare groups have found that the cycle of communication actually speeds up once a secure messaging solution is put in place due to the delivery notifications and read receipts that are present for communicating healthcare information in compliance with HIPAA.

Some of the advantages of communicating healthcare information in compliance with HIPAA include:

  • Speeding up hospital admissions with secure messaging
  • Control ER hand-offs with secure messaging
  • Highlight patient concerns with secure messaging
  • Cut patient discharge times with secure messaging
  • Deliver prescription orders with secure messaging
  • Complete health insurance claims with secure messaging

When secure messaging solutions are linked to EHRs or message answering services, these benefits are enhanced. Medical workers can send and receive healthcare information on the go, save time when they arrive at an accident scene or patient’s home, and collaborate with colleagues on the appropriate treatment to give to a patient.

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