HIPAA Compliance Guidance for Dental Practices

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HIPAA compliance requirements for dental practices are similar to those practiced by covered entities in other disciplines. If your dental practice files claim and handle large amounts of protected health information (PHI) of patients, then your practice is considered a covered entity under HIPAA. That means you must comply and apply appropriate safeguards to ensure proper confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI, or face substantial amounts of fines and corrective actions.

HIPAA’s overwhelming standards and requirements can become easier to follow with the right tools and resources. As such, HIPAA Ready simplifies HIPAA compliance for dental practices. From training to documentation to policy management, everything can be streamlined using our HIPAA compliance software.

That said, let’s take a quick look at the main HIPAA rules essential to compliance for dentists and other large and small dental practices.

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HIPAA Rules in a Flash

If you are a dentist or an employee working at a dental office, you should know about these main HIPAA rules. 

HIPAA Privacy Rule

The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes standards for the privacy of individually identifiable health information. This rule establishes a set of standards for protecting healthcare records.

HIPAA Security Rule

The HIPAA Security Rule establishes standards for protecting health information created, stored, maintained, or transmitted electronically. Dental practices must use appropriate technology and security protocols to secure patients’ health data. Dental practices should address the Security Rule very carefully to ensure compliance with HIPAA as almost all the practices today perform a variety of processes electronically. And when patients’ data are stored and maintained electronically, it exposes them to a greater risk of cyberattacks. Hence dental practices should implement appropriate administrative, physical, and technical safeguards that fit their practice.

Here’s a breakdown of the security rule’s safeguards:

Administrative safeguards – According to this requirement, dental practices are required to develop policies and procedures and conduct training for their employees to show how their practice is complying with HIPAA. 

Technical safeguards – This is related to security mechanisms that secure sensitive information. This may include firewalls, encryption, and creating data backups.

Physical safeguards – This pertains to the security mechanisms of a dental offices’ physical site. For example, installing CCTV cameras, locking rooms or cabinet files where paper records are being stored, etc.

HIPAA Breach Notification Rule

This rule mandates that dental practices or any solo dental practitioner inform patients about any kind of data breaches or if PHI gets compromised in any way, such as records stolen from the dental office or cyberattacks.

Omnibus Rule

The Omnibus Rule is made up of four closely related final rules that modified the Security, Privacy, Breach Notification, and Enforcement Rules. It included provisions for the HITECH Act that encourage the use of electronic health records.

Simple Guide To Achieving Compliance

Here’s are a few strategies dental practices can follow to ensure compliance with HIPAA.

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Develop Policies and Procedures

Developing and implementing appropriate policies and procedures should be the starting point for any medical providers, including dental practices. The policies and procedures should be tailored to the needs of dental practices and offices. This includes a facility access control policy, a data backup and retention policy, a disaster recovery policy, an automatic logoff policy, an information system access policy, and so on. 

Employee Training

Now you have all the appropriate policies and procedures in place but no one knows about it. Your efforts will be meaningless. As such, employee training is also a necessary part of HIPAA compliance. Employees should be trained and if needed, retrained on HIPAA rules, procedures, and other critical aspects of protecting PHI. Besides providing training to new employees, refresher training should be offered to established employees at least once a year. 

Security Mechanisms for Medical Records

The primary objective of HIPAA is to secure patients’ medical records. If you have paper charts and keep important paper records, you should implement proper physical security measures, such as locking cabinet files and allowing access to key personnel only. For electronic records, you can install firewalls, antivirus software, use encryptions, and other security mechanisms to prevent unauthorized access and use of patient records. It is also essential to ensure proper document access control. Certain information should be accessible to only those who need it to perform their tasks effectively. This can be done by ensuring that users have unique login credentials and secure passwords.

Device Security

Device security is perhaps the most critical aspect of any dental practice. To ensure compliance with HIPAA, dental practices must make sure that all the devices that contain PHI are set to automatically lock and require password reentry after a certain amount of time, usually around five to ten minutes. 

Dispose Medical Records or Electronic Devices Properly

Oftentimes, employees dispose of medical records without any consideration for HIPAA violation. And this is where most providers make mistakes. Electronic devices should be wiped clean before replacing and paper records should be shredded before disposing.

Develop Risk Management Procedures

Your dental practice should have robust, written risk management procedures with copies provided to all employees. All employees should understand how they will mitigate risk entering from the front desk to the procedure room to check out. Furthermore, dental practices should also create detailed plans for what to do in the event of a data breach.

Do You Need Help with HIPAA Compliance?

HIPAA Ready is the most ideal solution for both existing and new dental practices to ensure HIPAA compliance. HIPAA Ready is a robust cloud-based web and mobile compliance management software that simplifies all the major aspects of HIPAA compliance. HIPAA Ready offers comprehensive and up-to-date policy templates, online training modules with certification, risk management tools, documentation system, and other essential resources to make any dental practice HIPAA compliant.

Learn how HIPAA Ready can help your dental practice stay on top of all the HIPAA compliance requirements.

 

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