In the United States, nearly 90% of physicians use an EMR system in their offices. This electronic healthcare software is extremely beneficial to both physicians and their patients. Ease of access, storage space, PHI security, and many other benefits has allowed the electronic healthcare software market to thrive.
However, ensuring that the systems these physicians use meet HIPAA requirements is of critical importance for patient safety and client satisfaction. Read on for a guide to building HIPAA compliant healthcare software.
What is HIPAA Compliance?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a national standard for the security of protected health information (PHI). Every healthcare professional must follow this guidance, and violations of HIPAA can result in penalties.
What is Considered PHI?
In short, any information that can be used to identify a patient is protected under HIPAA. This can include:
- Patient contact information
- Social Security numbers
- Medical record numbers, account numbers, or ascension numbers
- Any identifying codes or IDs
When in doubt, it is better to play it safe.
Designing the Healthcare Software that Suits Your Practice
The ideal software for your clinic will give both your patients and your providers a user-friendly experience. Your software can be customized to fit your needs and the needs of your clinic.
Consider the needs of your practice and what you would like to see in your software. Telehealth, medical records management, scheduling, billing, and reporting can all be done electronically through your software.
A system that is well optimized to your practice’s needs will be intuitive for your providers and staff to use. Technology such as Telehealth and RFID software can drastically increase patient access and provider availability.
By utilizing the latest cutting-edge technology in your practice, you will be able to spend less time on paperwork and more time with your patients. However, in order for this technology to be successful, your team will need to guarantee that it will meet HIPAA requirements.
Important Considerations for HIPAA Compliance
Meet with Your IT Department
The first thing to consider is whether your current IT infrastructure meets HIPAA requirements. Ensure that all of your electronic medical records and PHI are being securely stored and are adequately protected. Make sure that your software is encrypted and secure.
Your team should plan to minimize PHI in your system. Remove duplicate information and lower the amount of PHI that could be potentially unprotected.
Make Sure Your Healthcare Software is User Authorized
Your software should have controlled access, and should be password protected. Each staff member will need to have a unique log-in. Keep these things in mind when considering password guidelines for your staff:
- Passwords should be at least 8 characters
- Passwords should have a mix of capitalized and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols
- Passwords should never be shared
- Passwords should be changed routinely to increase security (for example, every three months)
- Users should avoid reusing their old passwords or using the same passwords repeatedly
Multi-factor authentication is another great way to boost security. Consider adding this into your system.
Establish an Audit Trail
The software should be able to keep track of who is accessing PHI and when. Ensure that your healthcare software can record all logins and login attempts. Any suspicious activity should be monitored and reported. Potential breaches need to be investigated immediately and thoroughly.
All interactions with PHI should be logged for at least six years. Auditors should be able to see who made edits and changes at given points in time. This also helps with your system’s integrity.
Backup Your Software Regularly
The information you will be storing in your software is critical! Make sure that your system is regularly being backed up in the case of an emergency or breach. Your administration team should have a backup plan in place, and review it regularly.
Privacy Rule vs. Security Rule
The HIPAA privacy rule is the bar the federal government has established for protecting PHI. This applies to all healthcare professionals, including those who do not utilize an electronic records system. Medical practices in the United States are required to train their staff on the importance of regulations laid out in the privacy rule.
The security rule builds onto the privacy rule to cover electronic record systems. The security rule sets strict guidelines for how to maintain PHI electronically.
These guidelines lay out a number of different safeguards to protect PHI, including:
Practices should set standard operating procedures into place that lay out what the practice does to protect PHI. There should be clear policies in place. Practices are responsible for setting up, implementing, and maintaining their HIPAA security safeguards.
Computers with PHI should be securely stored and password protected. Storage rooms should be locked and only accessed by authorized staff. Devices with PHI should not be accessible by unauthorized personnel.
These safeguards specifically relate to technical measures, including access controls, auditing, and ability to prove PHI integrity. This means that your software should be able to prove that your PHI was only accessed by authorized personnel.
Now You are Ready to Build Your Software
You are now more familiar with HIPAA regulations and how they apply to electronic records systems. When building your software, keep in mind the critical components of HIPAA: security and privacy.
Your patients’ private healthcare information is critically important to keep safe. Meet with your team to discuss the best ways to make sure protected health information is adequately secured in your system.
To learn more about building HIPAA compliant healthcare software, visit our blog.