Last Updated | August 7, 2023
Executive Summary – HIPAA Compliance Software Requirements
Are you a healthcare organization planning to implement healthcare software? Will software handle patient data? Make sure it complies with HIPAA law. In this guide, we’ll go over HIPAA compliance software requirements, the key elements of software, and tips to help you find reliable and secure software.
Overview – HIPAA Compliance Software Requirements
Healthcare data is not linear. It is a uniquely complex, diverse pool, unlike the data of any other industry. Data in healthcare resides in multiple places- from EHRs to different departments like pharmacy or radiology- and comes from all over the organization.
Managing this data in disparate systems, aggregating it into secure software, and ensuring its security is a major concern for healthcare. Because data leakage can lead organizations to hefty compensations, it is critical for them to take the initiative to protect data and reduce the risk.
In the United States, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets national standards for protecting sensitive patient data. The law primarily aims to give patients more rights over their protected health information and set rules for organizations to limit who can access and share the data.
Luckily, the rule strikes a balance that protects the privacy of people who seek care while allowing the exchange of data to promote high-quality care. If you are up for developing medical software or implementing one that deals with sensitive patient data, it is vital for your software to ensure HIPAA compliance.
But of course, lining up with the HIPAA law is not an easy process. It requires you (as an organization) to have technical knowledge and experience. To provide you with that knowledge, we’ll go over details and cover HIPAA compliance software requirements and give you some implementation tips to get the most out of HIPAA-compliant software.
So, let’s get there!
What is HIPAA Compliance Software, and What are its Requirements?
HIPAA-compliant is a buzzword in healthcare, especially in the medical software world. Healthcare organizations that record and use patient data must deploy software that stores data in compliance with HIPAA law.
HIPAA-compliant software provides a framework and helps organizations navigate the nuances of HIPAA compliance. But to ensure that no aspect of HIPAA is overlooked, you must pay attention to HIPAA compliance software requirements. So, what are the key elements of HIPAA compliance requirements?
Here’s the checklist of eight HIPAA compliance requirements you should make efforts to meet.
1. Conduct HIPAA Risk Assessment
Start with assessing where you stand. Analyze every aspect of your organization that collects, handles, and stores patient data to identify risk. Where there is patient data, there is HIPAA, which means you cannot take any chances.
Since it is your responsibility to ensure data remains protected in your organization, you will be accountable if any data breach occurs. That surely is a tricky part of HIPAA compliance. To avoid that, make sure your HIPAA-compliant software can evaluate all the ways your information may get exposed and provide you with an assessment.
2. Complete Regular Self-audits
You cannot completely control what it takes to be HIPAA compliant. Because organizations are susceptible to both outsider and insider threats, the only way to identify potential risks or privacy violations is to perform regular audits.
Using these audits, HIPAA-compliant software will analyze the compliance level of your organization to provide a detailed account of current errors and concerning risks with some recommendations.
3. Avoid Shortcuts with HIPAA Compliance Software
Some software solutions only address specific elements of HIPAA compliance. So, they do not help you demonstrate full compliance. You may want to go for such simple software. However, you must choose comprehensive software that covers all necessary and addressable essentials outlined in HIPAA Rules and even state laws.
Comprehensive software may seem expensive in the short term. But by efficiently guiding your practice to comply with HIPAA, it can reduce costs, identify and address gaps, and minimize the risk of noncompliance leading to regulatory fines.
4. Data Backup and Disaster Recovery
HIPAA compliance requirements include robust data backup and recovery plans. To meet data backup requirements, you should have a policy for when your software should back up data. With a disaster recovery plan, you can set procedures for what happens during an attack or threat.
HIPAA compliance software should help you become vigilant with your recovery planning. By providing appropriate backups, the software should continue operations like data exchange in the face of disruption.
5. Managing Business Associate
It is critical to avoid errors that make you vulnerable. Choosing unreliable business associates (BA) is one of them. Business Associates can include the HIPAA-compliant software services you choose. Because they help you perform certain functions that include disclosure of health data to them, you must choose a business associate you can trust.
When creating a BA agreement, check if they regularly scan their system for security risks. You must also know their staff is properly trained and have security and privacy officers. To make sure their system is secure and controlled, you must learn if the vendor is validated for HIPAA compliance.
6. Employee Training
According to the HIPAA rule, every new member joining your workforce needs training within a reasonable time period after their onboarding. You must properly train your workforce for cybersecurity threats. Instead of periodic or annual training, you should provide training whenever changes, policies, or procedures affect the current functions and new guidelines are issued.
Often training for HIPAA compliance is bombarded with irrelevant information. However, keeping the training short, concise, and simple is more effective for retention.
You can consider covering the following fundamental topics in training:
- What HIPAA is
- HIPAA Privacy Rule and HIPAA Security Rule
- HIPAA definitions
- Why HIPAA is important
- Disclosures of PHI (protected health information)
- Breach notifications
- Safeguarding PHI
- Patient rights
- Potential violations
- BA (Business Associates) Agreements
- Employee Sanctions
This can give you an idea of what you can include in your training. However, there are no specific HIPAA training requirements. It all depends on your practice, size, specialty, and employees. You can even use methods like email newsletters, tests, posters, and quizzes all year round to deliver training content to your employees.
7. Document Everything
HIPAA-compliant software is mainly responsible for working with documents. Since they help maintain documentation for everything, healthcare providers avidly implement them in their organizations. The software provides reliable data storage, which protects data from attacks.
Besides maintaining health records, you can also use them to document your HIPAA compliance efforts.
8. Report Data Breaches
If an individual’s confidentiality is compromised, HIPAA law requires you to notify that affected individual. So, you should make sure that your software implements a cybersecurity policy that includes procedures for notifying the right parties- such as law enforcement or regulators- quickly after the breach occurs.
The Components of HIPAA Compliance Software
The healthcare software market is full of software solutions that help you address HIPAA compliance. But not all can be equally effective for your practice. When it comes to deciding on an effective solution, parsing differences between so many options can be difficult.
To narrow your choice, we have listed some essential components that the software should include:
Self-audits, Security Risk Assessment
Security risk assessment is the mandatory component of HIPAA compliance. HIPAA compliance software should be able to audit your organization against the security rules. This assessment gives you a baseline of security and privacy measures you have in place and if they meet HIPAA standards.
Choose software that provides you with risk assessment and follows through with other requirements.
In response to gaps uncovered by audit and risk assessments, the software should help you create recommendation plans. These plans are essential for achieving HIPAA compliance because they serve as proof that you have performed due diligence to comply with HIPAA.
An effective software should give you the ability to document all components of plans with sections for important details customized to the steps you take to remediate gaps.
Policies and Procedures
HIPAA compliance software lets you create policies and procedures that you can implement in your organization. With effective compliance software, you can keep your employees updated and eliminate the time-consuming burden of staying on top of changing regulations, rules, and required actions.
One of the most important aspects of HIPAA compliance software requirements is documenting compliance efforts. Without this documentation, your practice may fail to defend itself during a HIPAA audit. The software should be able to document every step of the compliance program and record them securely for years on your behalf.
Business Associate Management
Your practice needs may require you to share data with healthcare vendors. But, before sharing data, you must execute contracts known as Business Associate Agreements (BAAs). These contracts save you from liability when a healthcare vendor causes a breach.
Your software should have pre-vetted BAAs and the ability to store them securely once they are executed and signed. You can also make necessary changes to the BAAs and avoid HIPAA violations resulting from missing or out-of-date BAAs.
How to Choose the Right HIPAA Compliance Software for Your Business?
Selecting HIPAA compliance software that keeps the data flowing securely across your organization may not be as easy as you might think. The choice is not about which solution is the best, but which one best suits your needs.
The key to choosing the software that matches your requirements is understanding what it takes to find such a solution. You can consider the following points when looking for HIPAA compliance software requirements.
1. Identify Your Pain Points
Your choice of software should not be haphazard but based on your pain points. If you run a self-audit before selecting the software, you can ensure to pick the right software solution to your problems.
2. Check Vendor Credentials and Look for References
To ensure that the HIPAA compliance software is trustworthy, check the credentials of the vendor. You can determine their credibility by reading their reviews on different sites or by reaching out to their existing customers and asking for reviews.
3. Check the Price of the Service
On top of everything else, keep a budget in mind. HIPAA-compliant software can be pricey. So, before investing in it, pay attention to the cost of the software license.
4. Request a Free Trial
When you are in doubt, request a free trial. A trial takes out the guesswork from the process and is the best way to check if the software addresses your pain points. It also helps get your employees’ opinions about the software before implementing it.
Implementation Tips for HIPAA Compliance Software
Failure to HIPAA compliance is common in healthcare. When practices fail to comply with HIPAA, the fines put many of them out of business.
While most of the compliance issues spring from an increase in the exchange of healthcare data, the bottom line is that organizations often leave themselves vulnerable to data breaches in several ways that are essentially preventable.
Leveraging the right technology with proper implementation can certainly help you prevent breaches.
Here are some tips you can follow for proper implementation:
1. Understand Why HIPAA Matters
To many people, the law may be annoying, burdensome, or maddening. But it ultimately comes down to one point where everyone agrees- protecting patient information is important. You must know why compliance with HIPAA matters for you.
2. Have and Follow a Contingency Plan
This includes creating a data backup plan, disaster recovery plan, and emergency mode operation plan for when things go sideways and what you should do next.
3. Go Beyond Passwords for Security
Passwords alone may not suffice for security. You must use unique usernames and passwords combined with multi-factor authentication to secure your remote access.
4. Reliable Software Makes a Difference
Select reliable software. A trustworthy HIPAA-compliant software can make it easy and secure to manage PHI and comply with all requirements.
5. Be Aware of Third-party Obligations
A lot of vulnerabilities come through third parties. Whether you act as a third-party or have third-party business associates, you need to make sure security and compliance are on top of everything since they have a big impact on your business.
The vendor you choose should be compliant and work diligently to take care of the patient data they access.
List the top 5 common problems with HIPAA compliance software and how to solve them?
Healthcare organizations often fail to keep their software up with best practices to ensure HIPAA compliance.
Here are five common problems that surround this concern and how you can resolve them:
1. Failure to perform a security risk analysis
Most audited businesses fail to conduct a security risk analysis.
This analysis helps identify risks to the security practices of your organization. To address this issue, you must conduct yearly analysis or whenever any changes take place in policies.
2. Lack of device security protections
Implementing advanced security controls can help you prevent unauthorized access to PHI. You can implement security controls by:
- Encrypting software to stop unauthorized access
- Designating access to data at different levels based on employees’ job role
- Tracking access to data through audit controls
3. Following outdated HIPAA policies and procedures
Creating policies is another important aspect of preventing compliance issues. You must create new policies and procedures or update them to provide your organization with guidelines to ensure proper use, disclosure, and protection of PHI and how to tackle if breaches occur.
4. Inadequate employee training
HIPAA compliance does not come into effect unless your employees are trained. You must train employees annually on HIPAA basics, organizational policies and procedures, and best practices against cyberattacks.
5. Failure to implement data backup and disaster recovery
For organizations that fall victim to cyberattacks, having a backup plan is key to a quick recovery. In case of a cyber attack, HIPAA requires you to create procedures for the retrieval of PHI copies both in on-premise and off-site data locations.
This ensures PHI is easily accessible in the event of breaches.
List top 5 Maintenance Tips for HIPAA Compliance Software?
HIPAA compliance is not a one-time act. It is a continuous practice to ensure not only do you comply with the law but continue to stay compliant for the long haul.
This requires you to maintain the compliance software.
Below, we have put together five maintenance tips to help you maintain compliance:
- Thoroughly educate yourself on the concepts associated with HIPAA and keep yourself updated with regulatory changes.
- Establish procedures to create retrievable copies of patient data to retrieve them in case of a cyberattack
- Keep data backups off-site and data copies encrypted according to security measures outlined under HIPAA law.
- Assess your internal policies regularly to ensure adherence to HIPAA
- Deliver up-to-date information to your workforce through training and address the issues they encounter while handling patient health data.
How to use HIPAA compliance software to protect your data?
One of the best ways to ensure data security in HIPAA compliance software is to encrypt it with multiple layers of protection. Globally, 42% of organizations leverage encryption to protect customer data.
You can implement encryption to keep data from being vulnerable to the wrong hands.
Another way to prevent data accessibility is to limit its sharing, so your staff can only see the minimum information necessary to perform a task at hand.
Additionally, you can enable activity monitoring to record all login attempts to stay on top of everything and take measures to prevent breaches.
HIPAA law establishes standards to protect an individual’s privacy and health records that healthcare organizations and healthcare practitioners create, receive, use, and maintain.
HIPAA medical release laws emphasize three types of safeguards: physical, administrative, and technical to ensure security, integrity, and confidentiality of information healthcare providers handle.
To create an app that complies with HIPAA, here are some useful tips to follow:
- Get a qualified HIPAA expert to define security measures for your healthcare application and review the architecture.
- Minimize risk and exposure
- Reduce access to data to a minimum which is enough to accomplish a task at hand. Avoid accessing, displaying, and storing data that is not necessary.
- Make sure your app is secure and includes an authentication feature.
- When utilizing cloud storage, use secure data storage and transmission.
- Finally, encrypt data at all points to stay HIPAA compliant.
What are HIPAA compliance software requirements?
A HIPAA compliance software is usually a medical application or a service that meets all requirements of HIPAA law.
The software itself does not ensure compliance with HIPAA laws. It is the responsibility of organizations to practice all necessary HIPAA security guards in their data regulation and use the software in a compliant manner.
But, to protect the disclosure of information, there are a few HIPAA compliance requirements that the software should meet. Here’s the HIPAA compliance software requirements checklist:
- The HIPAA compliance software should utilize audits to analyze the compliance level of an organization. It should provide a detailed account of possible risks and current errors and recommend better practices to improve security.
- The software should work out backup and disaster recovery plans for specific problems.
- It should facilitate documentation processing in healthcare organizations.
- By handling contracts with business associates, the software must manage the security of the data organizations share.
Closing Thoughts – HIPAA Compliance Software Requirements
For healthcare organizations, insurance companies, and healthcare providers, compliance with HIPAA law is a must.
HIPAA standards help organizations improve healthcare services by permitting the exchange of health data. To ensure data security during this transmission, HIPAA requires organizations (like yours) to use compliant software that is encrypted.
Because the stacks for the misuse and theft of data are high in healthcare, you need to be careful while selecting HIPAA compliance software requirements. The software must meet all HIPAA compliance technical requirements and securely swap information with other systems.
At Folio3, we avidly create solutions that help organizations comply with HIPAA and stick to the letter and spirit of the law. With Folio3 custom healthcare software development grounded in HIPAA IT compliance requirements, we assure the solution we develop helps you achieve maximum data security.
To get our team to design the best HIPAA-compliant solution for your organization, connect to us, and let’s talk about your project.