All Posts in Category: HIPAA Blogs

Risk Analysis vs Risk Assessment

In discussions regarding HIPAA and risk determinations, each phrases “risk analysis” and also “risk assessment” are occasionally used correspondently. But bear in mind, according to HIPAA there is a difference between these phrases. Like many things under HIPAA, each and every single phrase possesses its own specific meaning and precision should be taken when applying or making reference to obligations. Each makes reference to a distinct requirement for covered entities and business associates under HIPAA.

The confusion that these phrases can produce is actually pervasive amongst individuals who deal with HIPAA. The difference was actually the topic of a debate on a medical lawyer listserv which I subscribe to. The fact that lawyers who actually focus their particular practices on HIPAA considered the necessity to debate the difference demonstrates the shortage of clarity in addition to the significance and need to carefully evaluate the differences.

Risk Analysis vs Risk Assessment

Under the HIPAA Security Rule, a “risk analysis” requires entities to “conduct an accurate and thorough assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information held by the covered entity or business associate.” 45 CFR § 164.308(a)(1)(ii)(A). The risk analysis is actually a required element for entities to perform in complying with HIPAA. While the definition of the risk analysis sets forth, the goal is to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in an entity’s systems. This in turn will assist the development of the entity’s security policies and procedures, which happens to be the next step in complying with the requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule. Accordingly, a risk analysis is an element of the compliance process.

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hipaa encryption

HIPAA Encryption Requirements

Information being transferred throughout multiple medical facilities can easily be lost or stolen. Understanding HIPAA encryption requirements with today’s technology advancing faster than ever, it is important to maintain secure communications and secure data. HIPAA has defined encryption and determined that it is a required element in process of staying compliant.

Electronic PHI has been encrypted as specified in the HIPAA Security Rule by “the use of an algorithmic process to transform data into a form in which there is a low probability of assigning meaning without use of a confidential process or key” (45 CFR 164.304 definition of encryption) and such confidential process or key that might enable decryption has not been breached.  To avoid a breach of the confidential process or key, these decryption tools should be stored on a device or at a location separate from the data they are used to encrypt or decrypt.

If you are need of data encryption, please do not hesitate to give us a call and get custom fit solution for you and your organization!

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Top 5 Most Common HIPAA Breaches

From e-mail to smartphones to EHRs, medical professionals and healthcare staff are using additional technological advances in practice than previously before. However while that new technology brings great business opportunities, it also raises unique obstacles when working to maintain protected health information (PHI) secure. That’s according to Robert Tennant, a senior policy adviser at the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and a presenter at the 2014 MGMA Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

While safeguarding PHI is definitely more complicated, understanding common sources of breaches can help practices better identify where and how to step up their breach mitigation efforts.

Here are 5 of the biggest technology-related risk areas that practices need to concentrate on:

1. EHRs and information exchange. EHRs bring some “inherent risks” when it comes to patient privacy if proper security safeguards and protocols aren’t put in place, said Tennant. Common problems he pointed to incorporate inappropriate access of staff to information in the system, and transfer of data between clinical sites in a non-secure method.

2. Cyber threats. Cyber assaults, combined with inadequate staff knowledge on how to keep important information secure, are another common problem, said Sacopulos. For example, if a staff member shares a password or neglects to use a password appropriately, or if a staff member clicks on a bad link, it can raise the likelihood that your practice will likely be hacked. “…When people are hacked it is most frequently [due to] human error and not technology error,” said Sacopulos.

3. Remote access. Many practices enable their medical professionals to access their EHR from a home office or from other remote locations. This particular could raise big security fears if thorough policies and procedures are not in place, said Tennant.

4. Lost or stolen devices. HIPAA breaches due to lost or stolen devices that contain unencrypted PHI (such as a stolen laptop) continue to be a major problem, said Tennant. In fact, he said, this is one of the most frequent sources of breaches.

5. Texting and e-mail. Texting and e-mail are extremely easy and convenient that a lot of physicians and staff might not think twice prior to sending information that contains unencrypted PHI, said Tennant. Of texting specifically, he said, “They think it’s secure because it’s only going to one person but in fact it’s not secure at all.”

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