HIPAA compliance is not an optional, but mandatory requirement for healthcare IT systems. HIPAA requires compliance with its requirements from healthcare organizations that handle Protected Health Information (PHI)-called Covered Entities-and their Business Associates. The US healthcare system is highly automated, which means that technology and healthcare are closely blended to each other.

Audits are the means by which HIPAA ensures compliance of Electronic Health Records with its requirements. HIPAA audits are carried out by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which is entrusted with ensuring HIPAA compliance. The OCR carries out its audits through phases. In March 2016, it commenced Phase II of HIPAA audits. These audits show up the different ways by which Covered Entities and their Business Associates could be in violation of the requirements set out by HIPAA for ensuring the privacy and security of healthcare IT systems. With this phase of audits, the OCR was empowered to carry out HIPAA audits randomly on any entity.

The two main aspects in HIPAA compliance
There are two main aspects in HIPAA compliance:

The Covered Entity and the Business Associate should provide the proper patient rights and controls on how they will use and disclose PHI
They should put in place the right policies and procedures aimed at ensuring this
These are how a healthcare organization can show the OCR that the Covered Entities and their Business Associates have all the necessary documentation in place for safeguarding patient PHI. These steps also help them show to the OCR, at the time of an audit or while being a compliance review, the manner in which they addressed all required security safeguards.

What does it take for a health information system to be HIPAA compliant?
How does one understand the criticality of HIPAA compliance by Covered Entities and their Business Associates? The most obvious reason is that this is the means to ensuring that health IT systems are safe and carry secure data. Being in compliance with HIPAA alone ensures that this is possible. It helps to have a solid health IT plan in place to ensure that the OCR does not slap penalties on the healthcare organization. The magnitude of penalties should give some idea of why organizations have to comply with HIPAA: many settlements exceed a million dollars each.

Ways by which to prepare healthcare IT system or HIPAA compliance
These are some of the ways by which healthcare organizations can implement HIPAA. They should:

Understand the risks to health IT records and implement Risk Analysis and risk management programs
Designate an officer in charge of HIPAA compliance
Get a grasp of how to implement the Business Associate Security Rule and Privacy Rule Compliance responsibilities with all their Policies and Procedures
Acquire the requisite knowledge needed to investigate, assess and document potential breaches. Wherever required, they should also implement the notifications the Breach Notification Rule requires them to

Author's Bio: 

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