5 Types of Challenges You Must Overcome to be HIPAA Compliant
If your organization deals with sensitive healthcare data, you’re well aware of the importance of HIPAA compliance. While compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 may be time-consuming or complicated, it is definitely essential, regardless of the challenges that come with your compliance efforts.
To be HIPAA compliant, you must overcome the following types of challenges: technical challenges, administrative challenges, physical challenges, risk analysis challenges, and documentation challenges. Let’s take a closer look at each of these areas for a better understanding of how to make these changes.
1. Technical Challenges for HIPAA Compliance
Having the technical controls in place to protect your data is essential. However, these technical aspects of data security are not without their challenges.
- Access Control. Controlling who has access to sensitive data can be a challenge, depending on the types of systems you use and where your data is stored. You must be able to ensure that only authorized personnel has access to electronically protected health information (e-PHI).
- Audit Controls. To be HIPAA compliant, you not only have to control who is using your data, but you also have to control how it is being used. With audit controls in place, you will be able to monitor and assess data activity, like who accessed specific files and for what purpose.
- Data Integrity Controls. To avoid noncompliance consequences, you must be able to preserve data integrity. This means ensuring that only authorized personnel have the ability to alter, delete, or destroy certain files. With the proper controls in place, you can prevent integrity compromises.
- Data Transfer Controls. If you’re unable to control how your data is transferred, your entire organization could be at risk. Ensuring that data is only shared using approved and secure methods is the best way to keep your e-PHI protected.
2. Administrative Challenges for HIPAA Compliance
In addition to technical challenges, you’ll also face administrative challenges in your efforts to protect sensitive e-PHI. You must have tight control of the processes associated with data protection. In your efforts to establish these processes, you may face the following challenges.
- Establishing and Following Processes. Having all the appropriate security measures in place is only step one. You also need to ensure that the proper processes are established and followed. This is the only way to maintain ongoing protection of your data.
- Security Control Oversight. You need someone who will be in charge of monitoring security measures, and ensuring policies and procedures are being followed. Without doing so, you lose control over your HIPAA compliance efforts. It’s wise to assign someone in your organization to be the designated security official.
- Employee Training. You need your employees on board with your compliance efforts to ensure they are successful. Employee neglect in this area often leads to data breaches. To avoid the challenge of a security compromise, your employees need proper training to understand data security best practices and expectations.
- Ongoing Assessment. How are you ensuring the security measures you’ve established are still effective? Ongoing monitoring is vital to ensure your data is protected and security controls are working.
3. Physical Challenges for HIPAA Compliance
While much of HIPAA compliance relates to keeping digital healthcare-related data protected, you also need to be concerned with the physical safeguards you have in place to protect data.
- Secure Facilities. Are you facing challenges related to controlling who comes in and out of your facilities? Limiting physical access where your data is stored to authorized personnel only is imperative for HIPAA compliance.
- Workstation Security. You must have guidelines about how to secure workstations. Employees must secure sensitive data they have at their workstations, including data stored on their workstation computers.
- Device Security. It’s imperative to keep prying eyes off devices storing sensitive data. Laptops, tablets, and mobile devices must all have the appropriate security controls in place. In addition to keeping devices protected, you also need a way to wipe e-PHI off devices once they are no longer being used, and you need a way to securely dispose of these devices.
4. Risk Analysis Challenges
One challenging aspect of HIPAA compliance that many organizations face is risk assessments. These assessments are conducted on a regular basis to identify vulnerabilities that may exist in your security measures. Once the vulnerabilities have been pointed out, you must take action to address them. Here are some common challenges with this process.
- Not Enough Manpower. Perhaps your IT team is simply stretched too thin. A good alternative is to outsource risk assessments to be conducted by a third party. This takes the responsibility off your shoulders, and you can trust that these assessments were conducted thoroughly.
- Not Enough Time. Conducting these assessments take precious time out of your IT team’s schedule (or whoever has been assigned this task.) While you may feel that other tasks are more pressing, few tasks have the consequences associated with them that risk assessment does.
5. Policies and Procedures and Documentation Challenges
Closely aligned with the administrative challenges you may face in your HIPAA compliance efforts, you may also face challenges with the process and procedure documentation process. Maintaining current documentation of your policies and procedures and keeping those procedures up to date with current compliance regulations can be time-consuming and tedious. Here’s more about those challenges.
- Regular Review. Regularly reviewing and updating your HIPAA compliance documentation can take a lot of work from your team. Fortunately, if you have an established process and timeline in place for regularly reviewing your compliance documentation, you can easily ensure it’s up to date.
- Updating Compliance Documentation. Updating your documentation, either based on changes to HIPAA regulations or internal changes you’ve made to your security measures can lead to challenges for your organization. Often, this documentation is not updated until it is absolutely essential.
While all of these challenges may seem overwhelming to overcome, the best way to address many of them is to adopt a secure file sharing solution. With the right solution in place, you can trust that the expert file sharing vendor has all the appropriate security measures in place to keep your data protected.
Learn more about maintaining HIPAA compliance for your file sharing. Download this HIPAA compliance readiness report and use it to assess your own organization.
About Martin Horan
Founder of FTP Today and an expert in secure file transfer and Internet protocols. A software and IT geek since a young age, Martin has successfully led his companies through the digital age by spotting market niches and filling them with quality IT services.