Availment of healthcare services and insurance has been a major conversation piece for lawmakers and private citizens alike. The rising costs of these services and the relatively high barriers making health care accessible to many low-income families have been brought forward in many arguments about the issue.
Healthcare for many private individuals has seen many changes over the past few years. Many of these changes have incited the rising costs of medical services, with access becoming harder to come by in many areas where even a decent medical provider lacks necessary utilities and personnel to accommodate the needed demand. Add to that, many health insurance companies and providers have become stricter with compliance and paperwork.
For businesses, safety and employee welfare must always be considered a non-negotiable piece of any transaction. But what happens when violations and certain adverse effects arise surrounding the handling of sensitive health information?
Legal Regulations for Health Information
With the amount of processes that people needed to undergo to ensure proper health related coverage came the utilization of automation and digital processing and storage of various information and material. As technology adapted new ways in making these services available for the general public, it also allowed the ease of transactions to be handled far more efficiently. The influence of technology in the industry has been nothing short of tremendous but it also presented new obstacles and concerns.
With sensitive information being stored in vast quantities in cyber systems, the prospect of having these data used for fraud, theft, and other crimes became a growing concern for many lawmakers.
Towards the end of the 20th century, there came the passing of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA. The signing of this law ensured that health related information being handled by covered entities: health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers fell under strict national standards of compliance, allowing for safety and covered by privacy laws.
The HIPAA also eased the transaction of individuals who made changes in employment and employers, and those who got laid off, to transfer or continue health insurance coverage.
In order to strengthen the HIPAA and increase legal liability for non-compliance, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 or HITECH came into fruition.
The HITECH Act made business associates covered by HIPAA covered entities to go into a business associate agreement, securing that personal health information were not disclosed unless authorized by or under the provisions of the HIPAA privacy rule. HITECH also required business associates to comply to regulations surrounding proper handling and regulations of said information. Part of this handling gave business associates the direct accountability for HIPAA violations and warranted financial penalties for such violations.
Measures to Prevent Mishandling of Documents
With the Implementation of the HIPAA and HITECH, business and individuals now have the full capacity of the law to counter any violations or attempt at misusing privately held information. Even with these laws in place, businesses can still improve and strengthen these practices in order to ensure that sensitive information is kept secured and well-stored.
1. Proper Security Training and Education
Under the provisions set up by HITECH, employees of covered entities must be well-versed and have their skills updated in handling private information. This also translates to proper usage of these data for purposes relevant to the request of individuals in need of this transaction. With the right HIPAA compliance training, employees under your business’ organizational framework will be better equipped in handling security breaches of any nature as well as instill a culture of strict compliance.
2. Updating Computer and Security Systems
An up to date security system can greatly enhance the level of protection that any organization has. That is because any weakness in a security hole can be taken advantage off by third-party individuals seeking to exploit and monetize your business’ data. By updating computer and security systems regularly, you’ll be able to neutralize attacks by hackers quickly.
3. Organized Security Personnel
With your digital and cyber information in good hands, it’s best to keep the physical aspect of your business in top shape as well. Security doesn’t just start and end and at the entrance of a building, but it has to be a well-coordinated and inter-dependent system, protecting and monitoring any threat that comes into play. By providing an organized system of security personnel, you’ll also be able to fight off internal threats.
4. Backing-Up Sensitive Information
There are many uncertainties when getting into a business. One of the most unfortunate things that can happen to yours is losing all your company files and data without any means of recovering them. Backing up important documents into a fail-safe system guarantees continuity and ease of restarting without much cost. You can either have a different site set up for such a load or integrate cloud-based information technology in saving up data.
Information and the Future of Businesses
Laws such as HIPAA and HITECH Act ensure that there is a delineation that personal information, even if it becomes digital, can be secured with the right amount of regulation and execution. Businesses will continue to make use of technological advancements in order to expand and survive in a cut-throat world.
Placing importance in handling information can greatly benefit your business in the long run. There must be a continuing line of measures and systems that foster a culture of strict compliance and individual initiative in making sure that even in the far-out future, the way we handle information and business transactions stay efficient and secure.