A HIPAA-Compliance Checklist For Healthcare Websites
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Operating with a business associate in the medical industry opens you up to regulations other organizations might not need to comply with; this comprises the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
HIPAA affects you, specifically your website, if you’re in the healthcare industry with an online presence. If your website collects, stores, or transmits Protected Health Information, it must be HIPAA compliant. Protected Health Information includes identifiable information connected with the genetic, demographic, financial, and physical or mental condition of an individual relating to healthcare.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) demands that every healthcare organization that works with patient data keep it private and secure. These regulations apply to any person who obtains patient information. This includes the administrative, bill collectors, healthcare individuals, and even the maintenance team.
If your website does not take well-grounded measures to secure the data it stores or transmits, you may be violating the HIPAA guidelines or increasing the risk of a data breach. Failure to comply with the HIPAA security rules or guidelines might result in HIPAA penalty fines, which are not very friendly to business owners even if no breach of PHI occurred. A fine can range from $100-$35,000 depending on several factors, including the level of negligence, patients affected, and scale of violation. What’s worse, you lose your reputation and the trust of patients.
How Do You Make Your Website HIPAA Compliant?
Moving patient information and medical records online has not just allowed for more effective and efficient transmission of healthcare, but it has also posed higher risks to individual medical information stored by these healthcare companies. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) lays out the conditions for online secure storage and transmission of Protected Health Information (PHI).
If your organization’s healthcare website is not compliant, start with the following crucial steps and cybersecurity methods to ensure your healthcare website is compliant, though your final needs may depend on variable factors, including what kind of information you handle:
Do you have a valid SSL certificate?
Getting a valid SSL certificate is one of the first steps in ensuring your website is HIPAA compliant.
This certificate creates a secure connection between your healthcare website and its server by encrypting data exchanged between the server and the patient’s device. What this SSL certificate does is prohibit data leaks.
Does a HIPAA-compliant hosting company host the website?
Your web host is your primary defense against compromised patient information (PHI). Ensure your host employs HIPAA-compliant safeguards because you put yourself at high risk if your host doesn’t implement HIPAA-compliant practices. If your web host doesn’t enforce HIPAA-compliant procedures, your best defense against vulnerabilities is to find another web hosting company.
According to HIPAA guidelines, continuous checks and updates prevent a breach of sensitive information, and if a security obstacle emerges, your web host has 48 hours to fix it.
Have you encrypted data at rest and in transit?
If your healthcare website collects medical information like electronic health records, symptoms, or conditions, you collect PHI. You might be receiving PHI on your website through patient forms, patient reviews, live-in chat, or patient portals. Ensure to encrypt and secure web forms and any other tool for collecting information on your website, as well as take reasonable measures to encrypt and secure stored PHI.
Have you set access controls?
As a healthcare provider, it’s your responsibility to ensure that those with access to ePHI are required to do their jobs sufficiently. The best way to achieve this is to set up role-based access controls for HIPAA security. Access to PHI should be to a limited number of people in the office and online. Restricting unauthorized access also lowers the chances of malware entering the system. As kids get older, parents may no longer have access to their children’s records in many states.
Are you recording and monitoring logs?
Your business has a thousand reasons to maintain HIPAA-compliant calls unless you want a visit from the Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which oversees the enforcement of HIPAA regulations. You might not know that keeping your calls aligned with HIPAA requirements increases your organization’s credibility and improves the customer perception. You want to confidently assure your patients that their calls are HIPAA-compliant. Patients want to know that when they call your organization to discuss sensitive health concerns, not only do they feel heard, but they also feel safe knowing that security measures are in place with their health information.
Are you backing up all PHI?
Backing up all patient PHI frequently on a physical media or a secured data center, either daily or weekly is mandatory. This backup plan is a technical safeguard part of the HIPAA disaster recovery strategy, which aims to protect the healthcare company’s data in the event of a major system failure. For best practices, having a cloned offsite copy of your regular backups helps significantly in case of a disaster for business continuity. On-site backups also create regular backups of your servers and store the data in secure geographical locations. On-site backups are recoverable if a restore is needed, and they are incredibly fast.
Have you obtained consent from patients before publishing testimonials on your website?
Before you post any testimonial or review by a patient on your healthcare website, it’s required by HIPAA guidelines that you obtain written authorization from that patient before you can publish any review or testimonial involving that patient on your social media or website. The patient must sign two documents: a Patient Testimonial Release Authorization form and a Notice of Privacy Practices.
Does your website include a notice of privacy practices?
The Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP) is a crucial document for every healthcare organization that communicates how their patient’s medical information may be used or shared. It should also list their privacy rights related to PHI. HIPAA guidelines require that covered entities place their Notice of Privacy Practices in a conspicuous place on the website. Your organization’s NPP should not be hidden, obscured, or require multiple clicks to be found on your healthcare website.
A HIPAA-compliant website is a top priority for any healthcare organization. If your healthcare website is not HIPAA compliant, you can take steps to ensure your patient’s medical information is protected. It takes just one HIPAA guidelines violation or one patient’s complaint to trigger an investigation. This HIPAA-compliant checklist is a fantastic way to get started. Take note that your website needs may go beyond what’s listed here. You can take steps today to protect your organization and your patients’ PHI, and project your organization as a reputable brand.
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