Understanding HIPAA Technical Requirements – A Quick Guide

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HIPAA Technical Requirements
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Understanding HIPAA Technical Requirements: The healthcare industry has recently seen exponential growth owing to modern technological advancements. Healthcare practitioners, hospitals, and pharmacies have become more efficient and speedier with the use of digital methods. Electronic devices have taken over traditional systems to allow doctors to serve better and maintain accessible patient information.

However, healthcare providers, insurance companies, and other entities associated with the healthcare sector must follow a set of privacy and security standards formulated under the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) to safeguard these records. Implementing HIPAA technical requirements can help keep health information protected against security threats.

In this guide, let us discuss in detail the technical requirements set by HIPAA and see how healthcare organizations can implement safeguards to remain compliant with the standard.

What are HIPAA Technical Requirements?

According to the Security Rule of the HIPAA, entities must implement technical safeguards to keep electronic patient health information protected and comply with the law. Though the rule sets a standard for technical measures, it keeps the process flexible and scalable with technological improvements.

That said, the Security Rule does not advise on the type of technology to be safeguarded as it can become irrelevant in the future. However, entities must ensure that the policies and procedures related to technology measures adhere to the specified requirements. Moreover, as the scope and size of entities can vary significantly, they must determine the most reasonable and suitable security measures and technologies for their organization.

Access Control

Access Control is the first requirement specified under the technical safeguards of the HIPAA. The standard aims to set a benchmark for technical controls and access control methods used by an entity.

Looking at the variety of access control methods available to any organization, the standard does not define the exact procedure but requires that the controls give access to the minimum information needed to perform a job.

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A business should determine the access control capability of different information systems containing electronic PHI and make sure system activity can be traced to users. It should also devise an access control policy that guides the development of procedures.

Devising and implementing a system for encryption and decryption of ePHI also proves to be beneficial. Such a mechanism will help organizations figure out whether the selected method of encryption is suitable for storing and maintaining patient health data as it is stored and processed.

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Audit Controls

Audit controls require that organizations implement hardware, software, and procedural mechanisms to record the activities in information systems involving ePHI. Under HIPAA compliance standards, entities must produce documentation of audit control procedures and strategies.

Teams at different levels need to understand how frequently audits are performed, how results are analyzed, where audit information is stored, and what policies the organization uses for violations.

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The Security Rule does not specify the frequency of reviewing audit reports or the type of data to be collected. Organizations are free to tailor the technical requirements to their own needs and risk factors.

As long as the entity maintains appropriate and reasonable audit controls over information systems containing electronic patient health records, it is considered to be HIPAA compliant.

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Authentication

Healthcare organizations must determine how to secure patient information during storage. For example, digital signatures, magnetic disks, and error-correcting memory are some electronic mechanisms that can be used for person or entity authentication.

This standard aims to make sure that an individual accessing ePHI is the one authorized to access sensitive material.

To implement this standard, organizations can authenticate proof of identity with the use of a key, token, or smart card, personal information like PIN or password, or biometric authentication like pattern or fingerprint.

Some entities implement two-factor authentication to ensure stricter authorization control.

RELATED: How Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) keeps business secure

Integrity

This standard deals with the way electronic patient health information is modified. Altering or destroying the ePHI inadvertently can result in security and quality issues.

Whether it is through human or machine intervention, the HIPAA standard demands the implementation of policies and procedures to protect the ePHI data integrity. Such controls can be created by figuring out how external sources can jeopardize information integrity.

Transmission Security

Secure transmission of data is also critical for healthcare organizations because an entity cannot function properly if they are not capable of transmitting a patient’s health records securely to another facility.

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The organization must review its existing methods for transferring and transmitting ePHI. After reviewing the methods, the entity must make sure appropriate technical safeguards are in place to protect data during transmission.

A comprehensive view should be used for confirming user identities. Organizations need to ensure that any user accessing ePHI is actually authorized to do so. Small steps like validating a transmission source or access rights for patient information go a long way in ensuring technical safeguards.

When these measures are in place, a healthcare organization is well-prepared to protect itself against security breaches.

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Final Thoughts

Under HIPAA, healthcare organizations must keep electronic patient health records protected against internal and external threats with the use of physical, administrative, and technical measures.

As the cybersecurity landscape evolves continuously, entities must implement technical safeguards that are compliant, comprehensive, and current. These measures must also evolve with the healthcare technology to improve the chances of preventing ePHI from falling into wrong hands.

We hope this guide helps you understand how entities can use technical elements to comply with HIPAA requirements.

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