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What Is HIPAA And Its Importance? In an effort to improve confidentiality and security of health care information, the federal government introduced HIPAA or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in 1996. HIPAA has made considerable impact on how sensitive patient details and info is handled in the healthcare industry since the time of its inception. The significance of complying to HIPAA can’t be overemphasized as failure to follow the regulations can lead to prison terms or hefty fines. Under HIPAA, business associates as well as covered entities are obligated to guarantee the privacy of PHI or Protected Health Information. Covered entities might include health care provides like physician practices and hospitals as well as health plan clearing houses and health plans. Business associates refer to companies that are doing services for covered entity and consequently, need to maintain, transmit or receive PHI. HIPAA also has comprehensive requirements for companies as well as organizations that hold PHI. They must give special attention to safeguard physical security of data and access to PHI should be only limited to the key personnel. The administrators must be aware of potential threats and updates on regular security are needed to be able to identify possible dangers that are posed by data hacking and phishing scams.
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Covered entities however should put a compliance program in place and see to it that relevant personnel are mindful of the HIPAA requirements. It is important for them to evaluate security controls every now and then and see to it that PHI is encrypted. Data that is encrypted can never be accessed if it is stolen or loss.
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Being a HIPAA compliant is important as this guarantee that the covered entity is prepared well in case there is HIPAA investigation or audit. HIPAA has an audit program which randomly selects entities for an audit. The audits are performed by the OCR or Office of Civil Rights in Department of Health and Human Services. OCR is also the one responsible for enforcing the privacy and security regulations of HIPAA. The primary purpose of the audit is evaluating compliance with HIPAA’s security rules and privacy along with the Breach notification rules. This means that if ever there is a breach in security in relation to Protected Health Information, either the business associate or covered entity must advise the affected person regarding the incident. HIPAA may also perform an investigation based on adverse findings of the random audit or in response to compliant filed towards the covered entity. The law states that the covered entity should cooperate with the investigation, after all, the complaints are being filed with OCR.