Organizations in the healthcare space or businesses that work with healthcare companies must maintain compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
This complex federal US law has been in place since 1996, and the Privacy Rule embedded in the legislation has been enforced for HIPAA “covered entities” since 2003.
What is a HIPAA Consultant?
A HIPAA compliance consultant is an IT professional who specializes in aligning an organization’s processes and IT environment with HIPAA regulations. This includes determining the company’s risk profile about HIPAA rules.
Because of the seriousness of the legislation and the detrimental effects of penalties for non-compliance, we’ve compiled a list of eight reasons why you should consider a partnership with a HIPAA compliance consultant.
#1 – HIPAA Compliance Consultants can determine if you fall under the legislation
HIPAA applies to healthcare businesses (like labs, hospitals, and doctors’ offices), but that’s not all. If you do business with a healthcare organization, you too are subject to HIPAA rules.
Those rules are in place to secure the private information for the private citizens under the healthcare organization’s care.
Unfortunately, HIPAA isn’t something that you can avoid. If you’re in one of these two groups, you must be in line with this set of laws:
- Healthcare Organization
- Business Associate (of a Healthcare Organization)
#2 – Bring you in line with HIPAA’s privacy rules
According to HHS.gov, the HIPAA Privacy Rule “establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically.
The Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization.
The Rule also gives patients rights over their health information, including rights to examine and obtain a copy of their health records, and to request corrections.”
#3 – Avoid non-compliance penalties
The Office of Civil Rights, the Justice Department, and the FCC each play a role in enforcing HIPAA legislation. Non-compliance can result in penalties ranging from fines to prison time.
Unfortunately, no leniency is given to businesses (large or small) that either doesn’t understand their responsibilities under the Act. HHS expects that organizations know and comply with the legislation.
#4 – Focus on what you’re good at, not legal jargon.
Having a HIPAA consultant on your side demonstrates to HHS that you are taking your compliance responsibilities seriously.
A HIPAA Risk Analysis (by a HIPAA consultant) available for the Office of Civil Rights to examine gives you evidence to provide any Office of Civil Rights (OCR) auditor.
A few significant benefits of having a HIPAA consultant on your team:
- Brings a skill set that may not be present in your staff, executive, or IT department
- Frees your IT department from having to take on the complexities of HIPAA compliance
- Provides your organization with an objective third party to examine your compliant standing
- Delivers a plan for the development and implementation of HIPAA compliant policies and procedures (IT and procedural)
#5 – Tailor a HIPAA compliance plan for your organization
Every organization has customized workflow and processes, and because your organization is unique, there is no cookie-cutter approach to HIPAA compliance. HIPAA compliance consultants have to survey your IT systems and workflow to determine how best to help you comply with the legislation.
Expect that your consultant will do a deep dive into your systems and that they will come up with a step-by-step roadmap to bring you into line with the legislation.
#6 – Where could you be out of step with HIPAA legislation?
HHS.gov provides a list of examples on their website showing how organizations can be violating HIPAA guidelines, sometimes without knowing it.
A few of examples:
- Providing health information to employers
- Mistakenly sending insurance information to the wrong person (computer glitch)
- Leaving logbooks and computers open where unauthorized individuals can see the information displayed
- Failure to provide privacy notices to patients
- Failure to encrypt, access, and store data correctly
- Allowing staff to leave personally identifiable information on voice messages
Finding issues like those described above is part of what a HIPAA compliance consultant does for your organization. Each aspect of your workflow (physical and electronic) is evaluated for compliance.
#7 – Save money
Yes, there is the looming specter of fines related to non-compliance to HIPAA, but that’s not the only economic factor at play. In addition to criminal liability, organizations that do not abide by HIPAA guidelines open themselves to civil liability.
But that’s still not the whole story.
A HIPAA compliance consultant with an IT skillset will be able to help you mold your IT processes into a more efficient system while at the same time bringing you in line with the legislation.
This higher level of efficiency and an IT roadmap that is HIPAA complaint will bring financial benefit.
Ready to Hire a HIPAA Compliance Consultant in Utah?
Many organizations in the country are either in the healthcare space or do business in the healthcare vertical. As a result, you likely need to be HIPAA compliant.
A quick survey will reveal the next steps you need to take. You’ll probably need a HIPAA review to start and then an in-depth risk audit each year after that.
To learn more about our company and the HIPAA Compliance Consultants on our team in Utah, contact us by phone or email to begin a no-obligation conversation.