At first, becoming HIPAA compliant appears deceptively simple. But once you start digging into it, you just want to get the medicine over with and move on. There’s no magic pill that will take away the pain of compliance, but there are some best practices that will give you greater control.
The Tricky Thing About HIPAA
HIPAA is designed to be tremendously flexible, so that individual organizations can determine for themselves how they will fulfill requirements. But that freedom actually makes HIPAA more challenging, because it doesn’t give you any specific direction to make sure that you’re handling elements appropriately.
The rule was designed for a broad user base, so it had to be adaptable to a wide swath of organizations. As a result, HIPAA has a lot of wiggle room. It lays out what you need to accomplish, but no specifics on how to accomplish it — and that can trip you up when you’re going through compliance for the first time. Worse yet, you may mistakenly believe you’re implementing best practices, to your detriment.
Related reading: How to Master Your First Compliance Certification Project
Getting a Handle on HIPAA
For example, under HIPAA you need to make sure you have secure authentication, but it doesn’t give you any guidance on how to do that. On the other hand, the PCI-DSS standard tells you exactly how to do it. Under PCI, everyone needs their own username and their own password, which needs to be a certain length and have certain complexity requirements.
I often recommend to organizations that they use PCI as a framework for their compliance engagement, even if they don’t have to be PCI-compliant. It’s such a strong standard that it sets you up for greater success.
PCI is one of the most prescriptive compliance standards around, and it maps very cleanly over top of HIPAA (and a multitude of additional requirements). It has hundreds of line items, and each one is very specific — and that’s a good thing. Because of its enormous breadth of coverage and strict line items, fulfilling PCI requirements at the same time envelopes the technical aspects of the HIPAA requirements.
Managing two standards sounds like more work than just managing one. But when you achieve compliance with PCI, you’ve also done the lion’s share of the work for HIPAA. And because PCI lays out exactly what to do and when, you’ll eliminate additional man hours, alleviate countless headaches, and reduce the risk to your organization.
But what if you’re HIPAA compliant and you get breached anyway?
If You’re HIPAA and You Know It
Let’s say you do everything right — you’re running a mean, lean, HIPAA machine — but you still have an incident. A data breach occurred, and now OCR or HHS is at your front door. Now you need to prove that you’ve done everything right. Will you be able to do that?
The tools you use to manage compliance are just as important as your compliance activities.
You have to be able to prove to others that you’ve been doing what you’re supposed to do, when you were supposed to do it. The amount of detail that you put into compliance management is the only thing that will help you if the worst happens and there’s some kind of an issue.
HIPAA doesn’t have any form of direct oversight. You’re expected to adhere to it on your own. The only time you’ll have any outside oversight is if you’ve had an issue. That’s when you need to be able to produce a repository that clearly shows you’ve done all of your due diligence properly.
The vast majority of facilities that have had a breach aren’t properly prepared to show that they’ve handled HIPAA appropriately. When OCR or HHS comes in and starts asking questions, everybody’s pointing to the guy on their right. They don’t have a repository to prove what they’ve done, and they end up on the wrong end of several tough conversations.
Organizations that use TCT Portal can sleep easy at night. Our end-to-end compliance management system provides everything you need to manage HIPAA and to prove your activities.
TCT Portal is your primary source of protection, because it gives you a repository you can point to that shows the work you’ve been doing. Having that evidence is your best way to mitigate the fines you would otherwise see when you have an issue.
[Screenshot of overview table showing progress against the HIPAA requirements]
The compliance tracking software is a holistic platform that gives you a manageable framework to streamline your entire HIPAA engagement. Real-time insights, common-sense organization, and automated functions make TCT Portal an absolute no-brainer for seasoned as well as new HIPAA professionals.
What better way than to have your own compliance management system that actually tracks this stuff and makes it traceable? When the worst happens, you have a reliable, detailed, and authenticated evidence trail at your fingertips. TCT Portal is your guidebook to show third parties that you’re doing what you should be doing and that you’re taking HIPAA compliance seriously.