As of 1996, HIPAA compliance is mandated by law. Penalties for violations are immediate and costly. Practitioners can be fined and run the risk of losing their license if found to be in repeated violation of HIPPA regulations. Given the complicated nature of the HIPAA regulations and the effort involved in maintaining HIPAA compliant databases, healthcare providers often question why this is an absolute necessity.
Passed in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was designed to protect confidential patient health information, including all electronic medical records. The act increased security surrounding patient information, gave patients more control over the release of their confidential health information, and provided healthcare providers with a universal set of privacy standards and penalties for violations of these regulations. In the decade since the passing of HIPAA laws, healthcare providers have been scrambling to keep up with these privacy guidelines in an age where more and more confidential information is being stored, accessed, and shared electronically. Typically, healthcare providers have used data encryption to help secure this information and ensure compliance to HIPAA standards. Lately, more and more healthcare providers are looking for additional methods for creating HIPAA compliant databases. While standardized penalties for lack of compliance are the primary driving force behind these endeavors, there are a number of other reasons why healthcare providers are realizing they need a HIPAA compliant database.
Reasons for HIPAA database compliance
The reason for HIPAA database compliance is simple and straightforward. It’s the law. HIPAA compliance is mandated for all healthcare providers that handle electronic transactions of confidential patient information. This includes hospitals, general and specialized physicians, home health organizations and service providers, and long-term care providers. These healthcare providers are required to install, monitor, and update hardware and software designed to effectively secure data while it is being stored, updated, accessed, and transmitted. Companies found to be in violations put themselves at risk for expensive financial consequences. Providers found to be in violation can be charged $100 to $50,000 per violation per year. The exact amount is dependent on the severity of the violation, the number of patients involved, and the severity of the negligence of the provider.
Tools for securing electronic data
- Data encryption. Protects electronic medical records during storage and transfer, and ensures that only the intended recipient can access the files.
- Firewalls. Software that prevents unauthorized access to electronic data.
- Electronic auditing systems. Requires users to sign in and logs each user’s activity on the record database.
- Professional audits. The single most reliable way to ensure current HIPAA compliance is to request a professional audit from an experienced and trainer auditor. These will bring to light any holes in your system and allow your healthcare company to close any gaps in security immediately.
Turning to the cloud for HIPAA compliance database management
Cloud-based databases have revolutionized the ease with which companies are achieving HIPAA compliance. Physical theft of records is cited as the number one cause of data security breaches. Therefore, cloud storage solutions have been the catalyst for a significant reduction in HIPAA violations within the healthcare industry.
Healthcare providers looking to outsource the installation, migration, and management of their database are advised to seek out a managed host provider who is well versed in HIPAA regulations. To learn more about utilizing cloud-based hosting to ensure HIPAA compliance for your healthcare company, contact a local data center to speak with a customer service representative today.
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