By Chelsea Lamb of businesspop.net
In this day and age, more and more people are transitioning to working from home, either by necessity or by choice. While in most industries, it’s a shift that can be made with ease and without concerns, the same can’t be said in the field of medicine. This is because medical professionals are not only stewards of health, but also of protected health information (PHI), making the transition to telecommuting something that should be properly controlled and adequately regulated.
HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), by and large, sets the standard for the protection of ultra-sensitive patient data, and lately, the need for HIPAA compliance for work-from-home medical professionals is already being systematically addressed. Here’s what you need to know.
Understand the need for security, above all.
The need for security when working remotely, especially apropos to the handling of PHI, is a well-documented fact. Cases of security breaches are not at all uncommon, putting people’s medical privacy at risk—with costly repercussions at that—and serving as bone-chilling cautionary tales. It goes without saying, therefore, that companies and organizations are not the only ones who need to safeguard PHI. In fact, the same rule applies to medical professionals working remotely too.
Indeed, working from home is widely regarded as a threat to HIPAA compliance. This, in turn, creates the real need to understand the risks and possible issues, as well as solid guidelines and measures firmly implemented, long before a medical professional could and should start working remotely. This invariably takes us to the next point . . .
Make sure you meet the requirements.
HIPAA compliance for remote workers is a many-pronged approach. There is a real need for businesses to enforce base requirements for the equipment, hardware, and software remote workers will use. At the most fundamental level, this will include the strict use of VPN, encryption measures on wireless routers and other devices (including personal ones that may be used for access), the use of firewalls and anti-virus software, and even limiting the use and access of the network to specific brands and versions of devices.
Of course, in such a highly regulated industry, there are bound to be regulations for remote home offices, as well. There is, in fact, a need for a HIPAA-compliant home office as the risk of a security breach increases when medical professionals take work home. So apart from the equipment, software, and network precautions as mentioned above, it’s important to underscore the need to observe safe practices, such as keeping the work computer locked when unattended, ensuring the safe storage and/or shredding of printouts and faxes, and the like.
All these measures are designed to honor and comply with the official HIPAA regulations. It’s only prudent, therefore, to have the latest HIPAA compliance checklist on hand to ensure that your business is covering all the bases.
Establish your compliance and credibility.
Finally, know that it’s one thing to be compliant, but it’s also another for potential clients, vendors and other companies you want to work with to know a business is compliant. It’s more than wise, therefore, to consider increasing the degree of assurance with a HITRUST CSF self-assessment. Best of all, using a platform like myCSF not only helps to maintain regulatory compliance to HIPAA, but also to other standards, including ISO, PCI, and NIST.
Of course, beyond industry compliance, how employees work matters, as well. The fact is, as more and more medical professionals work remotely (and are compliant in doing so), the competition gets fiercer. This makes it necessary to make use of compliant tools and even templates that save time and, by extension, money and efficiency.
Suffice it to say, your organization may have to jump through some very important hoops for your medical professionals to work from home, but there’s really no question of the necessity. Ultimately, HIPAA compliance will not only save your company from the risks of working without it—it could even save lives, too.