Document Management & HIPAA Compliance | What You Need To Know

By NE Docs | June 16, 2014

When it comes to healthcare organizations, we are all aware of the important role that patient privacy plays. In fact, patient confidentiality is so important that in 1996 the US Department of Health and Human Services initiated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – the infamous HIPAA.

HIPAA is a set of strict rules and regulations regarding document and data security, created to help safeguard sensitive healthcare information. While organizations that provide healthcare services (health insurance companies, doctors, treatment centers, etc.) are obviously required to adhere to HIPAA standards – they are not alone. HIPAA regulations apply to any organization that collects, stores, processes, retains, or has any level of access to an individuals’ health information. Should an organization fail to maintain their HIPAA compliance, they may find themselves on the receiving end of hefty fines, criminal charges, and even jail time.

Remaining completely HIPAA complaint is extremely important for any healthcare organization…but fear not! With the proper document management solution, you can help prevent HIPAA violations while ensuring that your document management practices are up to HIPAA’s strict standards. In order to better understand how document management is handled within HIPAA guidelines, we will cover what is expected of your documents – and how a strong document management solution keeps your company compliant.

HIPAA’s document security requirements can be broken down into 3 specific categories or “safeguards”:

  • Administrative: Organizational policies and procedures.
  • Physical: Physical security measures.
  • Technical: Electronic (non-physical) security measures.

It is important to note – there are no solutions that can offer guaranteed HIPAA compliance. There are many regulations, including many Administrative and Physical Safeguards that cannot be achieved through systems or software. Fortunately, there are several areas of security where your document management system will help you prevent issues and assist in staying 100% compliant.

How document management systems help HIPAA compliance:

Backups: HIPPA requires that all organizations have an emergency data backup plan in the event of a system failure. A document management system will allow you to create a secure offsite backup, providing both security and compliance. Additionally, you may choose to implement a cloud management system, which will not only backup data automatically, but also provide additional security beyond the physical limitations of an independent data center.

Disaster Recovery: In the event of an emergency, HIPAA requires that organizations have secure access to their information and a plan for disaster recovery. Even under extreme conditions, these regulations must be met. In this scenario – cloud-based document management systems can provide access to your information while making it simple to recover data via cloud-hosted storage.

Physical Security: When it comes to the physical protection of data – HIPAA has a large list of requirements. From backup power generators to video surveillance, sensitive healthcare information must be kept secure from both environmental and human threats. However, cloud-based systems are often already located in facilities that meet this level of physical safety. Unless you are hosting the data onsite, you can avoid the cost of security features by implementing a cloud-based document management solution.

Accessibility: In line with HIPAA’s Technical Safeguards, access to information must be strictly regulated. In order to remain compliant with HIPAA’s guidelines, organizations are asked to implement passwords, role-based account access, data redaction (removing certain information from a document), data encryption, and more. Many document management solutions come equipped to meet these requirements.

Audit Trials: Audit trials are used to track the activity pertaining to all sensitive data. Not only will having access to audit trials increase your effectiveness in addressing security violations – it will also keep your organization compliant. Audit trials are another staple feature for any document system worthy of HIPAA compliance.

Data Accuracy: As with anything we do – accuracy is of utmost importance. Under HIPAA regulations, an organization must have policies and procedures in place to safeguard data against alteration or destruction. A document management system can be used to discover and prevent such errors. Ensuring your data’s integrity – which is as valuable to your organization as it is to HIPAA.

Proper Identification: In line with HIPAA’s accessibility regulation, organizations must be able to verify that the individual accessing sensitive information is who they claim to be. Whether it be a password or key, thorough authentication is required. With the proper system in place, these verifications can be made easy with software.

Secure Data Transmission: Data does not remain dormant. It is sent from one location to another – transmitted over networks and exposed to additional threats. HIPPA requires that an organization have the proper security measures to prevent the interception of data. Through sophisticated encryption, this data can be kept safe whether it is intercepted or not – another reason to implement a great document management system.

Whether you are required to be HIPAA compliant or not, it is important to keep your valuable data safe. Implementing a document management system will not only help improve your bottom line through time savings and space allocation, it will ensure that your most valuable asset – your data – is kept secure 24/7.

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