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HIPAA Guidelines for Electronic Medical Records

Healthcare Practice Using Electronic Medical Records HIPAA Compliance Vital Records Control

The Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) was established in 1996 as the healthcare industry began to shift towards a digital infrastructure. Initially, the goal of HIPAA was to improve coverage for the sharing of electronic medical records (EMR). However, within recent years it has taken on a new priority – data security.

Though the federal government is reviewing ways to ease the regulatory restrictions that make data sharing challenging, the enforcement of HIPAA noncompliance is less likely to de-escalate. With announcements of HIPAA data breaches occurring at an all-time high, it’s critical that covered entities (CE’s) and business associates adopt best practices for PHI security.

An organization that fails to comply with HIPAA regulations can face:

  • costly fines
  • lawsuits
  • increased exposure to a data breach

If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate whether or not your day-to-day operations comply with HIPAA guidelines. Here are a few recommendations to ensure that your practice, and your electronic medical records, are securely protected:

Best Practices for HIPAA Compliance When Using EMR’s

1) Ensure Safe Storage

Keep all electronic systems & technical devices in a secure, lockable area that is monitored in your medical office or healthcare facility.

2) Turn Off Electronic Devices When Not in Use

These devices contain personal information & should also be securely shut-down when not in use. Medical records management systems with automatic time-out settings can be beneficial in this regard.

3) Install Firewall Protection

Install multiple firewalls to lessen the likelihood of hackers being able to break into your system. When in doubt on what infrastructure to use in your network, consult a professional firewall vendor.

4) Don’t Share EMR Passwords

While a common occurrence in healthcare offices, the sharing of passwords is a leading cause of data breaches. All attempts to access protected health information must be logged to allow organizations to monitor unauthorized access. If password credentials are shared with co-workers, systems are unable to accurately track the individuals who have viewed health information – a HIPAA violation.

5) Perform Regular Backups

Back up your electronic medical records and secure them away in a safe spot, such as a climate-controlled storage facility. As a final precaution, make traditional hard copies to ensure information doesn’t go missing.

6) Destroy Medical Records – Properly

Dispose of PHI information by securely shredding electronic medical records according to destruction guidelines to reduce the risk of breaches.

7) Train, Train, Train

Inadequate staff training can have a substantial negative impact on an organization when it comes to data sharing. Practices must provide ongoing training programs to inform employees of the proper ways to handle PHI information in administrative functions.

HIPAA Compliant Medical Records Management Partner

While the above steps are excellent ways to remain compliant, it’s also important to ensure any vendors associated with your medical facility are properly following HIPAA standards as well.

By working with a trusted health information management partner (HIM) like Vital Records Control, you’ll find that you’re receiving high-quality information management solutions backed by unmatched industry expertise. With HIPAA compliant trained experts that specialize in medical records management, we’re happy to help guide you on data privacy best practices.

Want to learn more about our other HIM services? From medical records scanning, release-information services, to secure destruction services, we offer a suite of holistic solutions to keep your medical information protected and accessible throughout its lifecycle.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from VRC Companies, LLC, or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

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