What is HIPAA Compliance? 3 Reasons Why it Matters to You
Virtual assistance is nothing but serious business to us.
The same applies to your sensitive information as a potential or ongoing client. In this fast-growing techie age, data privacy is a common reason to worry since more and more information goes online.
When you delegate and hire virtual assistance services to simplify everyday your tasks, you´re entrusting a major piece of your business puzzle: Your clients’ super delicate information.
You wouldn´t want anyone to manipulate it, would you?
And as a company which deals with information stored online, we´re completely aware of it. Information is always delicate.
So, sharing confidential data with strangers can inspire terror sometimes...
However, with Uassist.ME as a HIPAA compliant business, data protection of medical records is not a problem anymore. You can finally relax and be safe with us. (And your information too).
This seal of compliance verification proves how serious we are at protecting medical information.
Really? No risk. Period.
Our company has always reached for the stars. That´s why we´re thrilled to share with you today our ultimate jaw-dropping achievement!
Being accredited as a HIPAA compliant business is a HUGE step in our career.
It means we´re certainly moving forward in our long journey as virtual assistance experts.
Because, as dealing with different people and companies, we gladly choose to handle with care a raft of important data on a regular basis. And the legendary recognition of HIPAA compliance officially proves how exceptionally well we did it.
(It´s not necessary to remind you of the brutal consequences of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.)
But, what´s mandatory for you today is to fully understand one simple but crucial thing—What specifically means to become a HIPAA compliant business in 2019. So, let´s begin!
To make a long story short, you need to know that HIPAA laws are extremely strict and we observe them.
Does it truly make us authentic game changers in the virtual assistant niche?
Are we on top of other VA services who work with medical data and are failing to meet the hard HIPAA regulations?
Will you still find us thriving for the best after this notable triumph?
The answer, of course, is a bold treble yes.
And also three are the main reasons why we meet all the great HIPAA requirements. But you may be wondering at this point...
What´s HIPAA Compliance?
The acronym HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Passed in 1996, this well-respected legislation ensures the professional, confidential, and reliable handling of medical data. This law is regulated by the Department of Health and Human Services and, at the same time, it's enforced by the OCR (The Office for Civil Rights).
Apart from all the enforcement initiatives, the OCR is also in charge of civil money penalties in case of infringement.
Thanks to the strict security provisions that the high HIPAA standards demand, your medical information is therefore absolutely secured when hiring UAssist.ME virtual assistance services.
This is immensely important for all of our clients working in the healthcare field. And as a consequence, it´s paramount for us too!
Now, let me usher you to the ins and outs of the most important HIPAA aspects that we effectively comply with as a VA agency when we deal with information belonging to the healthcare industry:
1. We Respect The Privacy Rule
As the official website of the Department of Health and Human Services states, "The Privacy Rule, as well as all the Administrative Simplification rules, apply to
- Health plans
- Health care clearinghouses
- Any health care provider
who transmits health information in electronic form in connection with transactions for which the Secretary of HHS has adopted standards under HIPAA."
The complete name of the "Privacy Rule" is in fact, Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information.
Who Needs to Comply With HIPAA Privacy Rule?
Any organization or person who provides payment, treatment or operations in the healthcare realm has the obligation to comply with HIPAA laws. The first above is called "Covered Entities" (CE) in the full text of the law.
Moreover, business associates must meet HIPAA Compliance too. A "business associate" is any company that has access to medical data because it gives some kind of support in operations, treatment, or payment. This is the case of our company.
It´s also key to bear in mind here that a clearinghouse is an agency, organization or subcontractor that operates between the health care providers and the individuals. Clearinghouses also need to handle extremely sensitive information about patients and have to well respect all HIPAA regulations.
But, what is exactly implied in payment, treatment and operations?
- Treatment: It´s any health care service for a patient. It can be carried out by one or more health care providers. It includes consultation between providers and referrals.
- Payment: It involves reimbursements, coverage, and provision of benefits. In addition, it covers activities aimed to obtain payment and premiums.
- Operations: Broadly speaking, it´s the territory of:
- Case management and coordination
- Plan evaluation and credentialing
- Medical reviews and audits
- Insurance functions
- Business planning, development, management, and administration
- Business general administrative tasks of an entity
As you can imagine, it covers "all individually identifiable health information" held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associate, in any form or media, whether electronic, paper, or oral."
The most common scenarios of PHI include the following:
- Any information about the past, the current or the future physical/mental condition of a patient
- Any payment details regarding their healthcare plans
- This information can come in physical (PHI) and electronic format (ePHI). They both have the same importance.
(We´re talking psychologist notes, blood tests results, the dentist bill, a CT report.)
Now, imagine for a second how much data of this caliber our virtual assistants handle during only one full-time working day! Not to mention that they´re working in multiple offices. Yes. it´s impressive, to put it mildly.
So, what HIPAA laws do is make sure that no patient suffers private information mishandling. Medical information can't be unattended. Moreover, the Privacy Rule is flexible enough to adapt itself to multiple uses or disclosures regarding individuals´ health information.
An interesting ingredient of the Privacy Rule is the concept of "minimum necessary" use and disclosure. It means that a CE must disclose the least amount of private information as possible to fulfill a certain need.
The minimum necessary principle excludes these particular scenarios:
- Requests by health care providers for treating a patient
- Disclosure to the person who is the subject of the sensitive data
- A disclosure that is required by the law
- Use or disclosure to comply with other HIPAA rules
2. We Abide by The Security Rule
The main goal of the security rule is to ensure the betterment of patients´health care. This HIPAA rule features three different dimensions. These angles entail all the minimum standards that a CE, a business associate, and a clearinghouse need to meet.
Therefore, when it comes to managing ePHI (Electronic protected health information) there´s a treble challenge:
- The physical zone
- The administrative element
- The technical arena
The above dimensions, which make up a strong data protection strategy, cover a wide scope of several detailed aspects.
Some of them are:
- Strict policies about data use and access: All the staff handling sensitive information is fully trained in these.
- Encryption and decryption: Encryption is the process of converting plain text data (plaintext) into ciphertext—cipher is an algorithm applied to a text in order to protect its content. (This way, it´s impossible to decipher the information without the key/code.
- Logging records: There are strict tracking and audits of all the activity at both software and hardware level to avoid data breaches.
- Emergency access: It deals with those particular cases in which a piece of private information could be accessed to help overcome the critical situation of a patient. Staff needs special training and precise knowledge of these exceptions to know when to access what.
- Restrictions for movement and transfer of PHI and electronic media: For example, how to do the right kind of backup in case of moving offices or renewing electronic devices.
- Prevention of any attempt of security and privacy violations: Responsible and safe use of software and hardware in order to avoid any data breach. (See The Breach Notification Rule for more information.)
3. We Pass The Breach Notification Test
To understand the Breach Notification Rule, you must first picture a data breach happening. This takes place (sadly) when information is accessed without authorization. Data breach is a world on its own.
And it happens more than it should. (Not with us).
Consequently, data breach can come in different sizes, shapes, and flavors:
- Employee error or negligence
- Phishing: It happens when users click on malicious external links (sent generally by e-mail) or open malicious attachments.
- Physical exposure or theft
- Unauthorized access
- Inside threat
- Ransomware: As its name suggests it, it occurs when a program demands money after launching a cyber attack. If the money is not paid, data is destroyed.
Why is HIPAA Becoming Increasingly Important?
Over the last years, there´s been a shift from paper-based medical data to electronic storage. Its bright side is that the use of ePHI is time-saving (and paper-saving too!). However, the downside is that the chances of facing security issues and data breaches have elevated more than ever.
Taking the above risks into consideration, we're extremely proud of being a HIPAA compliant.
And now that you know for sure that Uassist.ME is an authority when it comes to medical data safeguarding, your information is definitely protected if you hire our virtual assistance services. We have an obsession with safety and results. When we get both together, there´s HIPAA compliance.
If you have an obsession with safety and results too, don´t ever miss out the unbeaten benefits of hiring virtual assistants for your health business.
Maybe you´re a freelance therapist arranging all your appointments alone, or you manage your own lab and a lot of employees.
Don´t you need more free time? Some fresh air to your schedule? Stop biting more than you can chew.
With Uassist.ME you can totally forget about the fear of entrusting delicate information.
You can quickly and easily request a consultation today.
We have the exact plan for your needs and budget. Start a new business chapter today with Uassist.ME.
Leave your clients’ medical information in good hands and enjoy more free time now.