HIPAA compliance software provides a range of tools to help organizations achieve compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and maintain compliance thereafter. However, because of the complexity of HIPAA, organizations are advised to select a software solution from a vendor who also provides support, training, and guidance.
Most HIPAA Covered Entities and Business Associates are required to designate a Privacy Officer and a Security Officer whose role it is to develop policies and procedures to safeguard Protected Health Information (PHI) from unauthorized uses and disclosures. The compliance officers must ensure the policies and procedures are implemented and adhered to in order to prevent HIPAA violations.
Even in large organizations that have the resources to dedicate whole teams to HIPAA compliance, this is a massive task. HIPAA is exceptionally complex and – because it was written to accommodate many different types of organization – some Privacy Rule and Security Rule standards only apply to certain types of organization, while exceptions exist for other types of organization.
In addition, some Security Rule standards have both “required” and “addressable” implementation specifications – the latter being a source of confusion for many compliance officers who have to determine whether existing safeguards are at least as effective as those required by the Security Rule, or whether the safeguards are necessary at all if the standard is unnecessary or unreasonable.
How HIPAA Compliance Software can Help
The complexity of HIPAA can result in oversights and omissions – notwithstanding that human error can also be a factor in organizations being less than 100% compliant. Therefore, many organizations take advantage of HIPAA compliance software – a web-based platform that includes tools, forms, and guidance for compliance officers to help avoid oversights, omissions, and human error.
Among the software´s tools is a library of policies and procedures that can be filtered in order to be relevant to the organization´s requirements. This enables compliance officers to compare the organization´s existing level of compliance with the optimum state in order to identify gaps in compliance that could lead to avoidable HIPAA violations and data breaches.
The guidance pages of the HIPAA compliance software help compliance officers fill the gaps via risk assessments and analyses, and then compliance officers can confirm 100% compliance via privacy and security standard audits. The software also enables organizations to create an inventory of devices used to access PHI, track employee training, and assess their data breach preparedness.
The Importance of Support, Training, and Guidance
As with any software, users of HIPAA compliance software are not going to become experts the first time they access the web-based platform. Vendor support is going to be necessary to help compliance officers navigate the software and use the tools to identify gaps in compliance. Vendor support may also be necessary to ensure any new policies implemented as a result of a risk assessment or audit are suitable to meet the requirements of HIPAA.
Any new policies or procedures implemented by a Covered Entity are subject to the “material change” training standard in 45 CFR § 164.530, so vendor support may also be required with training members of the workforce affected by the new policies and procedures. Thereafter, compliance officers may need assistance using the software to manage document retention, employee attestations (that they have received training), and policy version control.
Some vendors will also provide support and guidance if – despite the best efforts of the organization – a HIPAA violation or data breach occurs. Although HIPAA compliance software can guide compliance officers through the appropriate actions, it can help to have a human expert on hand to answer questions and support incident management, so the organization is able to react, respond, and recover from a HIPAA Violation or data breach quicker.
HIPAA Compliance Software FAQs
How can compliance officers ensure HIPAA policies are adhered to?
There are many policies that are managed by technical safeguards and these technical safeguards enforce adherence. In situations where adherence is dependent on the actions or inactions of an employee, effective training and a sanctions policy contribute towards adherence – although it is impossible to foresee errors in human judgement or malicious actions that can result in a violation.
How do smaller organizations with limited resources cope with HIPAA compliance?
Because of their size or the nature of their activities, smaller organizations may not have the same volume of standards to comply with as larger organizations. In addition, training and monitoring employee compliance can be much simpler, mitigating the possibility of poor compliance practices developing into a cultural norm – an issue more likely to affect larger organizations.
What is the advantage of HIPAA compliance software being web-based?
By being web-based, the HIPAA compliance software can be accessed by compliance officers from any Internet-connected device, from any location, at any time. This can be advantageous if (for example) compliance officers work from different locations, or if a HIPAA violation occurs outside normal working hours and the platform needs to be accessed from a remote device.
Why might a HIPAA violation or data breach occur if an organization is 100% compliant?
An organization can be 100% compliant with the requirements of HIPAA inasmuch as it has implemented all the necessary policies, procedures, and safeguards. However, an oversight, omission, or human error by an employee could result in a HIPAA violation or data breach which would require the Covered Entity or Business Associate to commence incident management.
Where can I find further information about HIPAA compliance software?
The best option is to contact a software vendor in order to discuss your requirements, the current level of your organization’s compliance, and the challenges you are experiencing. You should also ask for a no-obligation demonstration of the HIPAA compliance software and use the opportunity to find out more about the vendor´s support, training, and guidance services.