HIPAA Compliance Certification – Do you actually need it?

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A much-debated topic for years within the U.S. healthcare system is HIPAA compliance certification. While several third-party vendors are specializing in HIPAA training or compliance solutions who do provide a “HIPAA Compliant” seal of certification, does it mean that your organization is fully compliant? Does it mean that after achieving that “HIPAA Compliant” seal, your administrative burdens are removed? If yes, then why are there so many HIPAA violations, data breaches, and unwanted incidents still occurring regularly? This article will focus on some facts regarding HIPAA compliance certification and whether having certification makes you fully compliant.

A brief refresher about HIPAA

In a nutshell, HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is being widely used to protect sensitive patient information from being accessed, breached, monitored, or misused by any unauthorized parties. The law limits both internal and external unauthorized usage. It covers anyone dealing with PHI, or protected health information, and has multilayered rules and regulations to follow by covered entities and their business associates. While organizations continuously need to maintain compliance, HIPAA violations can cost organizations from $100 to $50,000 per violation, with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year. HIPAA compliance is crucial, not only for safeguarding PHI and operating within the law but also for avoiding fines.

HIPAA compliance certification – a necessity?

You will find that many third-party organizations claim that by using their solutions, be it training, consultancy, or an application, you will “achieve” HIPAA compliance and you will be provided with a HIPAA compliance certification badge. By showing a “HIPAA Compliant” badge on your promotional materials, you will attract more opportunities, but you can not rest easy once you get it.

Realistically, having HIPAA compliance certification means that your organization understands and ensures that it is following all the various HIPAA rules and regulations. The “HIPAA Compliant” badge gives your employees a sense of confidence and instills trust in the vendors working with you.

Breaking it down

However, HIPAA compliance certification does not necessarily mean that your organization, whether a business associate or a covered entity, is currently HIPAA compliant. It simply means that you are well-versed in HIPAA rules and regulations and have met the requirements of the certification providers. At most, it means that you are complying with HIPAA regulations at a point in time.

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“HIPAA Compliant” can be somewhat misleading as there is no official or recognized training, application, or any other process which can make you HIPAA compliant. Everything you see regarding HIPAA certification is unofficial and is not endorsed by official parties. There is a valid reason behind this, the point that has been made in many of our articles – HIPAA compliance is a complex and continuous process. While an organization can be assessed as being compliant today, it does not guarantee that it will do so successfully tomorrow or in the future. If that was the case, then numerous healthcare organizations and vendors would not have faced data breaches, employees would not have inadvertently looked at patients’ medical records, and so on. Moreover, HIPAA rules are updated regularly with the changing times, availability of new technology, and the environment, and these factors can make the certification obsolete, and the organization would need to go through another “certification” procedure.

While an organization may opt for certification for peace of mind, the organization should also ensure compliance in the future. Certification shows an understanding of the HIPAA rules and regulations, and also instills confidence in employees, as well as patients and vendors alike.

A solution unlike any other

While HIPAA compliance certification may seem like a temporary solution (due to the constantly changing regulations), organizations handling PHI can go a step further by using HIPAA Ready, a HIPAA compliance software that removes the administrative burdens, and simplifies compliance. While it does not provide “HIPAA Compliant” certification, instead, it focuses on what is important and constantly simplifies your compliance. With its robust set of features, you can conduct internal audits to identify risks within your system, ensure training management and scheduling, keep all HIPAA related information in a centralized location, and take the extra burden of compliance from your shoulders. 

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