Trying to make an operation compliant with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards can be a challenge by any measure. The technology we so often count on in everyday operations can make an already difficult situation even worse. Yet at the same time, that technology can give us a real edge in addressing HIPAA compliance. Knowing what to watch out for, and where to take advantage of technology, can make all the difference in the end.
Where Is Technology Challenging Us in HIPAA Compliance?
A recent study by Ernst & Young demonstrated conclusively that HIPAA compliance is a challenge, and one often exacerbated by technology.
More potential points of failure.
The Ernst & Young study found that 91% of healthcare organizations in the US planned some kind of new technology initiative. Such initiatives would be put in place over the next 12 months, and looked to improve overall experience quality for patients. That means a lot of new technology will be going into place. With all that new technology will come new potential ways to get around security measures, including some that may not have even been fully considered until now.
More uses of data.
The most frequently-planned healthcare technology initiatives all revolve around greater uses of patient data. Data analytics are on tap for half of respondents, while 47% are looking to gather metrics on patient experience. Another 46% of respondents are looking into competitive benchmarking, and overall patient experience work is next for 45% of respondents. That means a lot more data will be moving from one place or another to get analyzed, compared, and gathered. By HIPAA compliance standards, this means many more protective measures than normal will be required.
More harm than good?
Healthcare firms also had several concerns about new technology projects. 46% were concerned they wouldn't get a sufficient budget to do the job right. 35% were afraid of unknown circumstances that could emerge during the project. Even 32% were concerned about privacy issues, and since HIPAA compliance requires a certain amount of privacy for patient records, it's clear healthcare firms were concerned about meeting HIPAA standards before their expansion projects even began.
Can we even handle it?
The Ernst & Young study noted that 29% of firms were concerned about a lack of expertise internally. This isn't just expertise in putting the new technology in play but also using it, and of course, making it fit with HIPAA compliance requirements. Many healthcare organizations simply don't believe they can actually handle all this new technology, despite the fact that, without it, they will be at a significant disadvantage against their competitors.
How Is Technology Helping Us Better Address HIPAA Compliance?
Yet even as technology poses new risks, it also poses new opportunity to better address issues of HIPAA compliance and offer a better customer experience.
Optimistic about outcomes.
The Ernst & Young study featured many optimistic healthcare providers. For instance, 70% of organizations expected to see improved patient experience as a result of their new technology use. Another 58% projected better clinical outcomes or better recovery for patients. The same number, 58%, also looked for better customer relationships, which improves the likelihood that those patients will be repeat customers in the future.
While we've seen the value of short message service (SMS) operations in our everyday lives, businesses have begun to accept the benefits as well. Secure texting has emerged to provide security sufficient for HIPPA compliance while allowing physicians to transmit and receive useful patient information.
Better internal protection.
Two major advances have emerged in internal operational security: audit logging tools and intrusion detection tools. Audit logging tools help produce audio logs, which in turn help track what information was accessed and by who. It creates a document that can be useful in later discovery following unauthorized data access and data breach, which is in line with HIPAA compliance standards. Intrusion detection, meanwhile, helps address issues of outsiders attempting to breach a system. Although it requires a certain amount of staff training to understand how it works and how to use it, beyond that, it becomes a valuable help with so many data breaches about.
Better external protection.
Many businesses are taking advantage of cloud-based systems. From cloud storage to cloud-based applications like data analysis or video conferencing, cloud systems are delivering huge value without big upfront costs. Using the right cloud provider here can mean the difference between HIPAA compliance and non-HIPAA compliance, especially as some kinds of cloud storage can completely encrypt entire databases, an expensive but HIPAA-compliant move.
What to Do When You Want More Technology Help in Answering HIPAA Compliance?
We've seen here how technology both helps and hurts when it comes to HIPAA compliance. When you want to put more weight on the help side, the best place to start is by reaching out to us at UTG. Our background in security and compliance operations, along with network operations, can help.