Given that HIPAA was first enacted in 1996, healthcare professionals have had 21 years to perfectly design, implement, and execute compliance plans. However, the reality for most organizations is that HIPAA compliance is still a work in progress. Some providers still find that remaining compliant is an everyday battle. While there are several possible reasons why healthcare organizations are not HIPAA compliant, we have put together a list of the top five:
They don't have a plan in place
You wouldn't start on a road trip without having a route mapped out. You wouldn't build a house without blueprints. Having a plan for implementing a HIPAA compliance plan is just as imperative. Starting without a plan in place will hinder efficiency and progress. Getting where you want to go begins with knowing where you're starting from. Begin by assessing your current plan, and identifying deficiencies and areas of improvement. Then use those deficits to guide where you can make changes, create new policies and make improvements to achieve your organization's overall compliance goals.
They lack the training and knowledge
HIPAA compliance is not a simple concept. It's not always black and white and not every step has been spelled out. Additionally, as with most aspects of healthcare, compliance programs have to be adjusted as technology evolves and circumstances require. Compliance officers need to ensure they are keeping up with those changes by reading industry publications and by attending webinars and continuing education seminars.
They think that HIPAA is a one-time project
HIPAA compliance is not a project that has an end date. It is a constantly evolving process that must be thought of every day and with every patient interaction. Organizations who implement a program and then put it on the shelf will inevitably open themselves up to breaches and problems down the line. Compliance and risk assessments need to be performed on a regular basis, especially as problems are identified. Staff training needs to be done, at minimum, on a yearly basis. As breaches and incidents occur, policies should be updated and trainings should be done to re-educate staff and administration. An effective HIPAA policy is a proactive one. So being on guard for potential risks before they happen is always the best policy.
They think it's too expensive
Purchasing a new EHR system, updating encryption and antivirus software, training staff, and restructuring office design may all be necessary to become and remain HIPAA compliant. Each of these cost both time and money. Providers are already operating under tight budgets so the idea of spending more on a non-revenue creating projects may seem unrealistic. But the reality is, with the high risk involved with HIPAA breaches and the heavy sanctions being handed out by HHS for violations, healthcare organizations can't afford not to invest in their compliance programs.
They don't reach out to experts in the field for help
Some healthcare organizations are stacked wide and deep with experts in various fields. In that case, it's easy to find someone with the expertise and knowledge necessary to support an organization's compliance program. However, some organizations are often spread so thin, you have one administrator handling the roles of five individuals. In cases like this, it makes sense to reach out to specialists in the field.
Whatever struggles your organization may face in becoming HIPAA compliant, Healthcare Compliance Pros can help. We specialize in designing and implementing compliance programs, performing risk assessments, answering questions about compliance and assisting with breach determination and mitigation whenever a suspected breach occurs.