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How to Stay HIPAA Compliant

Doctor working with computer tablet

Organizations with access to protected health information must maintain HIPAA compliance. Here’s what you should know, and how no-code can help you securely manage PHI.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a series of regulatory standards that determine the lawful use and disclosure of protected health information (PHI), or any demographic information that can be used to identify a patient or client of an agency that’s beholden to HIPAA. Common examples of PHI include names, addresses, phone numbers, health records, payment records, and even photographs. 

Building reliable, scalable, and secure enterprise-grade healthcare applications that are capable of protecting confidential health information is essential. To better appreciate the complexity of HIPAA, let’s dig a little deeper into what the rules entail before we get into how a no-code platform can help you securely manage protected health information.

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What exactly is HIPAA?

HIPAA regulations encompass many different rules, but these are the four you should know.

HIPAA Privacy Rule

This rule addresses the use and disclosure of health information by all covered entities (e.g., healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, etc.) and establishes the standards for a patient’s rights to understand and control the usage of their personal information.

The goal of the HIPAA Privacy Rule is to ensure all health information is protected while also providing healthcare professionals with access to the information they need to provide their patients with high-quality care. 

HIPAA Security Rule

While the HIPAA Privacy Rule broadly protects any information that can be used to identify a patient, the HIPAA Security Rule protects another important subset of confidential information—electronic protected health information (ePHI).

Since ePHI includes digital files, emails, e-bills, and other documents that can be easily copied and transmitted (either by healthcare professionals or bad actors), ePHI requires these additional safeguards.

HIPAA Breach Notification Rule

The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule outlines the steps covered entities and business associates must take in the event of a data breach. Organizations are obligated to report all breaches, no matter their size, and follow the specific reporting protocols associated with each breach type.

HIPAA Omnibus Rule

This addendum to the HIPAA regulation was enacted to include business associates—a term that encompasses people or organizations outside of a covered entity’s workforce that use or disclose identifiable health information during the course of business. The Omnibus Rule states that all business associates must be HIPAA compliant and outlines the rules surrounding Business Associate Agreements (BAAs), or the contracts that must be executed between a business associate and a covered entity or two business associates before any identifiable health information changes hands.

The consequences of non-compliance

Any breach in HIPAA compliance that compromises the integrity and security of PHI or ePHI is considered a HIPAA violation. Stolen devices, hacking, data breaches, and malware incidents are among the most common causes of HIPAA violations. However, not all violations are intentional or caused by a bad actor. If a hospital receptionist accidentally sends PHI to the wrong patient or contact, that counts as a HIPAA violation. Similarly, a doctor discussing identifiable information outside of the office at a conference is also considered a HIPAA violation.

HIPAA violations are ranked according to a four-tier system, with the fines and penalties escalating based on the knowledge a covered entity had of the violation. Depending on the severity of the offense, HIPAA violations can also result in criminal penalties!

  • Tier 1: The covered entity was unaware of the violation, meaning it was realistically unavoidable and the entity took a reasonable amount of care to abide by HIPAA regulations—minimum fine of $100 per violation, though they can reach $50,000

  • Tier 2: The covered entity should have been aware of the violation, but it couldn’t have been avoided with a reasonable amount of care—fines range from $1,000 to $50,000 per violation

  • Tier 3: The covered entity willfully neglected HIPAA rules, but attempted to correct the violation—$10,000 minimum with up to a $50,000 fine per violation

  • Tier 4: The covered entity willfully violated HIPAA rules and made no attempt to correct the violation—$50,000 minimum fine per violation

Maintaining HIPAA compliance is critical and can be broken down into several different ways. The Security Rule outlines three different types of standards that all organizations must follow to remain compliant—administrative safeguards, physical safeguards, and technical safeguards.

Often considered the most challenging of all safeguards, technical safeguards include technology put in place to protect ePHI. 

Often considered the most challenging of all safeguards, technical safeguards include technology put in place to protect ePHI. As telehealth rises in popularity and more patients choose to send their personal data online, technical safeguards—such as role-based access controls, transmissions security, and encryption—are often the first (and most important) line of defense. With the help of the Unqork platform, you can build a secure and scalable enterprise-grade healthcare application that’s up to the task of protecting confidential health information. 

Helping healthcare providers stay HIPAA compliant

Hear the story of how Unqork helped Maimonides Medical Center build an effective digital front door for their patients.

Equipped with powerful security capabilities right out of the box, our no-code enterprise application platform is designed to help you process, transmit, and store ePHI in strict compliance with HIPAA regulations. Unqork’s enterprise-grade encryption helps prevent unauthorized individuals and hackers from accessing data, thereby maintaining confidentiality and helping your organization avoid HIPAA violations. Also, the Unqork team performs regular penetration testing on your application to locate and address any potential vulnerabilities before hackers can exploit them.

However, hackers aren’t the only threats to your organization’s cybersecurity and HIPAA compliance. Carefully monitoring and quickly identifying insider threats is an essential part of any organization’s security, and Unqork’s role-based access control (RBAC) enables you to restrict access to sensitive information. By only providing specific individuals within your organization access to protected health information data, RBAC can help improve your organization’s HIPAA compliance and operational efficiency.

Simple to use yet powerful enough to create high-quality applications, Unqork’s microservices also make compliance easier. On top of increasing the flexibility, scalability, resilience, and performance of your application, microservices are highly reusable. Once you have established a compliant workflow, you can stay compliant by simply reusing the same component over and over again. You’ll create high-quality applications three times faster, and you can rest assured that you’re doing everything you can to protect your patients.

To learn more about Unqork and how it can help you stay compliant with HIPAA regulations, schedule a personalized demonstration today. For up-to-date information about no-code, subscribe to the Unqork newsletter