Ensuring Healthcare Data Security with Business Process Outsourcing
In an era of widespread data breaches, it’s never been more essential to keep the data of your clients and customers safe and secure, no matter what your industry. And for businesses operating in—or adjacent to—healthcare, data security is not only important, it’s legally required.
So important is healthcare data security that the U.S. government has taken specific steps to define the processes by which potentially sensitive information may and may not be stored, accessed and transmitted. Since 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has enforced the safeguarding of protected health information (PHI) that’s electronically transmitted.
It will come as no surprise that HIPAA regulations are mandatory for businesses that operate directly in healthcare—whether by offering medical services, involving in insurance claims processing, special services to specific types of patients.
What may be less well known, though, is the fact that HIPAA regulations must also be followed by some companies that don’t offer specific medical or clinical products or services, but work with those that do. So, in its effort to ensure all sensitive patient info is kept as safe as possible, HIPAA’s stringent (and regularly enforced) requirements apply to businesses involved directly and indirectly with a wide variety of healthcare transactions.
Do HIPAA’s Healthcare Data Security Rules Apply to Your Company?
“Healthcare data security is an important element of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Rules,” explain the editors of the HIPAA Journal, adding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “has increased enforcement of HIPAA Rules,” and “settlements with covered entities for violations of HIPAA Rules are being reached at a greater rate than ever before.”
With the rise of telehealth and electronic-based care, this heightened level of data protection is seen as sheer necessity. Think about all the ways patient information is transmitted electronically: From doctors sharing radiography results with colleagues and patients uploading vital signs to mobile apps to insurance companies providing claims info on their websites, and an almost endless variety of other methods.
While these innovations in healthcare data sharing mean “that the medical workforce can be more mobile and efficient (i.e., physicians can check patient records and test results from wherever they are),” explains the HHS website, “the rise in the adoption rate of these technologies increases the potential security risks.”
The medical workforce can be more mobile and efficient, the rise in the adoption rate of these technologies increases the potential security risks.
And, though the HHS emphasizes that HIPAA is “designed to be flexible and scalable,” many businesses required to operate within these rules have described a considerable level of difficulty conforming to them. This particularly affects smaller healthcare businesses, which may not have the resources to embrace all the technological implications that full healthcare data security requires.
With its specification that a “covered entity can be the business associate of another covered entity,” HIPAA’s healthcare data security requirements can be even more daunting for non-healthcare providers that simply happen to do business adjacent to the medical industry. For instance, it could be a company providing administrative services to a health insurer or an accounting firm auditing a practice’s records.
According to HIPAA’s definition of business associates, this can cover a lot of companies They include ones that offer claims processing, data analysis, utilization review and/or billing services associated with “legal, actuarial, accounting, consulting, data aggregation, management, administrative, accreditation, or financial services.”
How HIPAA Regulates Healthcare Data Security and Why
If your business falls under HIPAA’s mandate, the series of requirements you must put into place to protect healthcare data security are significant, including specific administrative safeguards that include:
- Creation and implementation of a formal security management process, subject to audit and review.
- Designation of a security official and potentially a team of security personnel.
- Creation of a workforce training and management program to ensure staff is knowledgeable of, and complaint with, HIPAA.
- Ensuring that physical safeguards are in place, such as facility access restrictions and workstation/device security.
- Ensuring technical safeguards are in place, including hardware, software and procedural security, as well as access, audit and integrity controls and data-transmission security.
This may seem like an imposing set of rules, but let’s face it: Even if the government didn’t require this level of security, smart businesses would put it in effect all the same. To that end, the HIPAA rules are a valuable guide to ensuring that a company’s healthcare data security is as comprehensive as possible. And that priority should be top of mind for any business coming into contact with patient data, no matter how indirectly.
With cyberattacks on healthcare organizations on the rise and cybercriminals developing increasingly sophisticated tools and methods to attack healthcare organizations, healthcare data security has never been more important, as the HIPAA Journal editors explain.
“With cyberattacks on healthcare organizations on the rise and cybercriminals developing increasingly sophisticated tools and methods to attack healthcare organizations, healthcare data security has never been more important,” as the HIPAA Journal editors explain.
And most consumers today are very well aware of the potential for data breaches that could endanger their sensitive information, particularly when it comes to their health records. On top of that, other companies you seek to do business may view lackluster efforts in healthcare data security as a deal breaker.
Achieving Healthcare Data Security with Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
For this reason, many companies that do business in and around the healthcare sector are choosing to enlist the help of a business process outsourcing (BPO) partner with a proven track record in data security. The most reliable of BPO providers have spent decades building up their healthcare data security infrastructure and best practices. They have the know-how to make sure they’re continuously kept up to date, too.
For businesses that do choose to work with a BPO provider to help ensure healthcare data security, it’s important to choose a partner that offers HIPAA-compliant services, including:
- Claims and enrollment, with customer service agents who offer years of healthcare industry specialization and understand the ins and outs of working with HIPAA.
- Counseling services to help guide you through other aspects of healthcare data security within your operations.
- Experience speaking with patients and providers, with the expertise to navigate obscure industry terminology and the confidence and knowledgeability needed to put patients at ease.
Offering more than 20 years of experience serving the healthcare industry (and many others), along with leaders with specific expertise in healthcare technology, Working Solutions ticks all the boxes above. The company also offers access to a network of agents who specialize in all aspects of clinical and medical business:
- Member/provider relations on a bilingual basis, such as healthcare claims, clinical care, benefit coverage, flexible spending administration and self-service promotion.
- Public health services, including risk assessments, wellness education, disease-specific outreach and medication adherence.
- Acquisition and retention related to healthcare business, such as personalized outreach to patients and providers, enrollment confirmation, benefits check-up, product orientation and lead generation.
Related: How to Balance the ‘Two Prongs’ of Healthcare Customer Service
In the face of rising costs and ever-changing, mounting regulatory and technological complexity, healthcare data security has never been more important—or difficult to achieve. Don’t leave this essential task to chance. Our team has the expertise to help you keep in front of HIPAA regulations and all other matters relating to the security of all the sensitive data you handle.
Interested in learning more? Contact us here to schedule your complimentary consultation with a Working Solutions expert.
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Vice President, Information Technology
Published on May 9, 2019
Published on May 9, 2019