How to Become an Expert on HIPAA Compliance

All the sensitive data that’s created and stored today—especially within the healthcare industry—has caused an increased demand for special attention, meaning that it’s more important than ever for managed service providers (MSPs) to fully understand HIPAA compliance. Not only does this mean knowing what it is, but what you need to do to be HIPAA compliant and what the consequences entail if you try to serve clients in the healthcare field without being compliant.

As mentioned in my previous blog, privately owned medical practices are becoming a principal target of cyber-attacks; therefore, the medical industry needs to be well prepared to prevent such threats from penetrating their network. As doctors are not usually security experts, they rely heavily on their MSPs to make sure they have the proper tools in place to maintain HIPAA compliance and protect them from cybercrime. Here are some key strategies that will help you become an expert on HIPAA compliance and uphold your promises to healthcare clients.

Stay Up-To-Date on Rules and Regulations

MSPs must be vigilant about the frequency at which the HIPAA rules and regulations change. The US Government Publishing Office is the official source of publication of all HIPAA updates; however, when significant changes to HIPAA occur, it would hard to miss due to the amount of media attention gathered as well as word-of-mouth in the medical community. MSPs need to be experts on HIPAA; and as the rules and regulations are very specific, MSPs can look to HIPAA education companies to help them achieve compliance and gain the knowledge needed to make sure their healthcare clients are well-informed and equip to meet compliance.

A suitable HIPAA education company would first conduct a security analysis to understand your current stance in terms of HIPAA and identify gaps that need to be filled in order to be fully compliant. They would also provide regular training sessions to keep employees up-to-date with the latest requirements. Additionally, they should be able to provide comprehensive HIPAA training so that you have the knowledge you need to service your healthcare clients. For more information and resources on HIPAA training, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Client Communication and Training

Once you are well-versed on HIPAA rules and regulations, you need to convey this information to healthcare clients as it is just as important (if not more so) for doctors and other medical professionals to have a clear understanding of HIPAA and how it impacts them.

One of the most important, and effective, aspects of HIPAA education is basic user training. Medical professionals need to understand what behaviors are unacceptable—for example, sending a patient’s medical records over an insecure e-mail platform. A strong user training course would teach medical professionals about the dangers of ransomware, how to avoid phishing e-mails, password requirements, acceptable e-mail communications and how to manage PHI (protected health information). With human error being the leading cause of successful cyberattacks in medical practices, user training is imperative.

HIPAA Security Awareness

Although the MSP is responsible for making sure the proper security tools are in place to secure the client’s environment, doctors still need to understand what is needed and why. This information can be provided through a strong security awareness training solution that offers courses on HIPAA security and compliance. The HIPAA security rule is very complex and the requirements are stringent, so doctors need to fully understand this in order to fully comply.

Additionally, there is a major cocktail of security tools that need to be enforced in medical practices in order to meet compliance—this includes solutions such as anti-virus, anti-malware, DNS, and a managed detection and response solution. Although the MSP can handle the implementation on their end, doctors need to maintain an understanding of why these tools need to be in place and abide by the HIPAA security rule.

More often than not, medical practices operate with the notion that they are too small to become a victim of a cyber attack or security breach. Not only does that way of thinking make the practice extremely vulnerable, it also compromises patient security. The truth is, smaller medical practices are just as vulnerable (if not more) as larger practices or hospitals. Therefore, MSPs need to encourage their medical clients to invest in a comprehensive Security Awareness Training program as well as the suite of security tools need to secure their environments.

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