HIPAA compliance software is an application for overcoming the challenges of complying with HIPAA. Depending on the capabilities of the software, it can help compliance officers more easily identify gaps in compliance, more effectively eliminate gaps in compliance, and more accurately track compliance activities to ensure the organization is complying with HIPAA at all times.
HIPAA compliance is a “100% task” inasmuch as if you comply with 99% of the HIPAA requirements, the potential still exists for an avoidable HIPAA violation. Unfortunately, non-compliance with 1% of the HIPAA requirements does not mean there is a 1% chance of a HIPAA violation. The percentage could be far higher depending on where non-compliance exists.
For example, if your organization fails to comply with patients´ right of access regulations, fails to protect systems from natural and environmental hazards, or fails to implement best practices for password management, these failings could result in multiple HIPAA violations and OCR sanctions – even if the violations do not result in a data breach.
As the consequences of a HIPAA violation can be significant, it is in an organization´s best interests to ensure they are 100% compliant with HIPAA at all times. But how is it possible to know for sure the organization is 100% compliant and that full compliance is being maintained? The answer is HIPAA compliance software – a cost-effective way to overcome the challenges of complying with HIPAA.
What Does HIPAA Compliance Software Do?
HIPAA compliance software provides compliance officers with a complete list of the policies and procedures required by the Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules and the HITECH Act. The software can be used to conduct risk assessments to assess the organization´s level of compliance and identify where gaps exist. The software can also be used to conduct audits on:
- Privacy Standards – i.e., allowable uses and disclosures, minimum necessary standard, patient access rights, Notices of Privacy Practices, etc.
- Security Standards – i.e., the standards found in the administrative, physical, and technical safeguards of the Security Rule.
- Assets and Devices – i.e., create an inventory of the devices used within the organization to access ePHI so technical safeguards can be implemented where necessary.
- Physical site security – i.e., assess the physical security of offices, buildings, and sites that house PHI to mitigate the risk of unauthorized access.
- Security IT risks – i.e., identify areas of risk that can be mitigated through your compliance program and through your security and awareness training program.
- HITECH Subtitle D – i.e., assess the organization´s preparedness for a data breach and ensure processes are in place to comply with the breach notification requirements.
The risk assessments and audits guide compliance officers to where gaps in compliance exist and how best to eliminate them. The HIPAA software can help eliminate gaps via a library of policies and procedures, Business Associate Agreements (BAAs), Notices of Privacy Practices, and patient consent forms – all of which can be tailored to meet the organization´s requirements.
Thereafter, the HIPAA software can be used to maintain document versions and employee attestations, track compliance activities, set reminders for policy reviews and BAA renewals, and act as a source of valuable information in the event of a violation or data breach in order to support effective incident management.
Additional Support for Enhanced Compliance
In addition to using HIPAA compliance software to identify and eliminate gaps in compliance, some software vendors offer additional support. This can range from coaches that guide compliance officers through the software, to support for training, assessments, and incident management. In many cases, once an organization has achieved 100% compliance, it will be issued with a certificate demonstrating that every effort has been made to comply with HIPAA.
For Covered Entities, although a certificate of compliance does not absolve the organization of liability in the event of a subsequent HIPAA violation, it demonstrates to OCR investigators the Covered Entity has made every good faith effort to comply with HIPAA. For Business Associates, a certificate of compliance can accelerate a Covered Entity´s due diligence on the Business Associate to seal a business agreement faster.
HIPAA Compliance Software FAQs
How likely is a fine for failing to comply with patients´ right of access regulations?
The likelihood of a fine for failing to comply with patients’ right of access regulations has increased substantially in recent years due to HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) launching a campaign to stop this type of HIPAA violation occurring as this is one of the leading reasons for complaints to OCR. There have been cases in which OCR has issued substantial penalties for failing to comply with patients´ rights of access regulations – which may not only include a fine, but also the requirement to comply with a corrective action plan for two years.
Does a Business Associate have to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule?
A Business Associate does have to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule in certain circumstances. Although the HIPAA Privacy Rule generally only applies to Covered Entities, the Rule states Covered Entities may only disclose PHI to Business Associates if they obtain satisfactory assurances that the Business Associate will only use the PHI for the purpose(s) stipulated in the BAA, will safeguard PHI from misuse, and comply with the Covered Entity´s Privacy Rule obligations.
Does HIPAA compliance software guarantee compliance with HIPAA?
HIPAA compliance software does not guarantee compliance with HIPAA because HIPAA compliance is not reliant on technology alone. It also requires compliant processes and compliant people. While the software can guide compliance officers to developing compliant processes and training employees to be compliant, systems still need to be put in place to monitor that the processes are being followed in a compliant manner by employees.
What are document versions and why would you need to maintain them?
All HIPAA-related documents must be retained for a minimum of six years, while documents relating to policies and procedures must be retained for six years from the last time they were in force. If policies change frequently, it can be difficult to keep on top of what changes were made to each policy and when. HIPAA compliance software enables simplified document version management.
Where can I find out more about HIPAA compliance software?
The best way to find out more about HIPAA compliance software is to speak with a vendor and request a demonstration of the software in action. This will give you the opportunity to ask questions relevant to your organization’s requirements and establish whether the vendor provides services beyond the provision of the software – such as additional support for HIPAA compliance.