Why You Should Consider HIPAA Compliance Even if It’s Not Legally Required

January 10th, 2018
Why You Should Consider HIPAA Compliance Even if It’s Not Legally Required

Most businesses assume HIPAA legislation only applies to healthcare providers and any organizations that handle patient health information (PHI) on their behalf. That’s just fine as far as the law is concerned, but there are also plenty of good reasons for becoming HIPAA-compliant even if you’re not legally obliged to.

What Is HIPAA Compliance?

Enacted in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act features two titles. The first title concerns the portability of health insurance for employees leaving their jobs, while the second one is designed to protect medical records and other private information about patients. The law sets the standards for the storage, transmission, and management of digital PHI while also giving patients more control over how their private data is handled.

Who Needs to Be HIPAA-Compliant?

HIPAA applies to two different types of organization: covered entities and business associates. Covered entities are healthcare providers and related organizations, and business associates are any organizations that handle PHI on behalf of the former.

For example, a managed services provider that provides cloud storage services to clients in the healthcare field would be considered a business associate, and would therefore be required by law to meet the compliance regulations as well.

The term is quite broad, since it concerns all organizations that handle PHI, including companies and departments that handle payments or any other operations on behalf of covered entities.

What Is Protected Health Information?

Protected health information is exactly what HIPAA legislation is designed to protect. It covers all individually identifiable health information stored in digital format or in printed documents. As such, it is a broad term that includes everything from personal health records to prescriptions to laboratory results. In other words, if the data includes any information about a person’s past or current physical or mental health, then it’s most likely to be considered protected health information, and is therefore subject to HIPAA legislation.

But What If My Company Doesn’t Handle PHI?

If your company doesn’t handle any PHI whatsoever, then it doesn’t need to be complaint as far as the law is concerned. Nonetheless, with data security and integrity being among the most important concerns in modern business, achieving compliance is just a smart choice for a multitude of reasons. Being one of the strictest data-protection policies of all, it might not be easy to achieve compliance, but the benefits will be significant regardless of your industry.

Most importantly, becoming HIPAA-compliant demonstrates to your customers and business partners that you take security extremely seriously. For the sake of your reputation alone, that’s a valuable thing to have on your side. When you consider how several major global organizations have hit the headlines over the last few years due to severe data breaches, it shouldn’t be hard to see why consumers are becoming increasingly wary of data security.

Another major benefit of achieving HIPAA compliance is that you’ll likely open your doors to a wider range of business opportunities. For example, an organization that makes wearable technology might decide to branch out into health-related wearable devices which, after all, are all the rage these days. Many of these devices record and share health-related information, and while they’re generally not covered under HIPAA legislation yet, there’s a good chance this will change in the future.

How Do You Become Compliant?

This is where the hard work lies. Achieving HIPAA compliance means satisfying five main goals:

  • Sign business associate agreements with any relevant partners
  • Implement safeguards to protect PHI, such as encryption
  • Restrict and monitor access to PHI
  • Create security policies and procedures
  • Train employees about data privacy

If the above looks too time-consuming and complicated, know that you’re not alone. OC-IT is here to help businesses meet the strictest regulations with absolute confidence. Call us today to get your free assessment.