What is HIPAA? How Does it Impact Your IT? Why Should You Care?

Medical information is deeply sensitive information, and your organization’s cybersecurity needs to be robust enough to protect it. To safeguard both your employees/clients’ information and your business, it’s critical that your electronic systems are HIPAA compliant. 

What is HIPAA and What is the Purpose of HIPAA?? 

Signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 21, 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is legislation designed with two main purposes in mind: to provide continuous health insurance coverage for individuals who lose or change jobs and to standardize the electronic transmission of healthcare information so that medical data remains private.

HIPAA consists of five sections (or titles): 

  • Title I: HIPAA Health Insurance Reform
  • Title II: HIPAA Administrative Simplification 
  • Title III: HIPAA Tax-Related Health Provisions
  • Title IV: Application and Enforcement of Group Health Plan Requirements 
  • Title V: Revenue Offsets 

Title I: HIPAA Health Insurance Reform

Title I protects health insurance coverage for individuals who have lost their job or changed jobs. Under Title I, employers and health plans must allow a new employee’s coverage to remain continuous without regard to pre-existing conditions. 

Title II: HIPAA Administrative Simplification

Title II is designed to prevent healthcare fraud abuse. Under Title II, healthcare organizations are required to remain in compliance with privacy regulations set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and implement secure electronic access to medical information. Title II ensures private healthcare information is protected from cyberattacks or other data breaches.

Title III: HIPAA Tax-Related Health Provisions

Title III covers tax-related guidelines and provisions for medical care. 

Title IV: Application and Enforcement of Group Health Plan Requirements

Title IV delves into greater detail about insurance reform provisions, including provisions for individuals with pre-existing conditions and the need for continual coverage. 

Title V: Revenue Offsets

Title V introduces provisions on company-owned life insurance and regulations on how employers can deduct premiums for income tax purposes. 

What is HIPAA compliance?

HIPAA compliance means that your organization meets the standards outlined under Title II and can be trusted to protect electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI). PHI that must be protected includes a patient’s name, address, birth date, Social Security number, physical or mental condition, treatment or care information, and payment information. 

There are five standards under Title II that you should meet to be HIPAA compliant:

  • National Provider Identifier Standard: This standard requires health care entities such as individuals, employers, health plans and providers to have a 10-digit NPI (national provider identifier) assigned to them. 
  • Transactions and Codes Sets Standard: Under this subsection, healthcare organizations must follow a standardized protocol in electronic data interchange (EDI). 
  • HIPAA Privacy Rule: This standard of HIPAA ensures that patient health information remains private. The HIPAA Privacy Rule (also known as “Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information”) makes it mandatory for national standards to be established to protect data. It protects PHI being stored or transmitted by healthcare entities and business associates. 
  • HIPAA Security Rule: Officially termed the “Standards for the Protection of Electronic Protected Health Information,” this standard outlines expectations for safeguarding patient data. Under the Security Rule, physical and electronic safeguards are required to ensure PHI is transmitted, stored, and received securely. 
  • HIPAA Enforcement Rule: This subsection of HIPAA introduces guidelines for investigating companies for HIPAA violation. 

The HIPAA privacy and security rules apply to any organization that handles PHI or personal health records, including hospitals, doctors’ offices and health insurance providers. Organizations with health plans also fall under HIPAA standards. 

Under HIPAA standards, business associates and subcontractors are held to the same standards for protecting PHI as other healthcare entities. 

Why do you need to be HIPAA compliant?

Data breaches happen every single day across the world, and they don’t just happen to big companies like Facebook or Target. Small businesses and organizations are at high risk of digital threats and often the least prepared for them. 

It’s critical that, no matter how big or small your organization is, you have safeguards to protect private data. HIPAA compliance ensures that those safeguards are established.

Aside from protecting the private information of your clients/employees, HIPAA compliance is critical because, without it, you risk substantial fines, criminal charges or civil action lawsuits if private information is ever jeopardized. 

The maximum penalty for HIPAA violations is $50,000 per violation and $1.5 million for repeat violations, so it’s very important that your organization meets HIPAA standards.  

How can your organization become HIPAA compliant? 

Becoming HIPAA compliant can feel overwhelming, especially because you’re dealing with critical private information that needs strong safeguards. That’s where Executech can help. 

Our team of professional IT technicians will come to you to ensure your electronic systems are secure and your PHI is protected. Our consultants provide the tools, people and processes necessary to keep your organization safe from cyberattacks and breaches. We also provide online courses and training to ensure your business is equipped to handle whatever cyber threats come your way. 

To learn more about what Executech can do for you and your organization, click here.

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