HIPAA Protection: What Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule Do?

HIPAA Protection: What Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule Do?

HIPPA ProtectionPhoto by Dayne Topkin

Your organization may handle sensitive information. If so, it’s your responsibility, and in your best interest to follow HIPAA rules.

Cybersecurity is a daily challenge for healthcare providers and businesses. Cyberattacks are on the rise, and hackers are finding more ways to attack networks.

This problem persists as more remote workers use phones for work. The increase in health devices that access the internet makes for enticing targets.

Many – but not all – non-HIPAA companies rely on information for income. These entities may include:

  • Advertisers
  • Data brokers
  • Genetic testing companies
  • Marketers
  • Websites

More private organizations have entered the healthcare data space. As they do, peoples’ sensitive information faces increased risk. Resultantly, it pays to understand HIPAA protection.

The Current State of HIPAA Protection

Some government agencies and nonprofit organizations house sensitive consumer data. It’s difficult to assess the exact amount of sensitive data that exists online.

There were almost 45,000 healthcare apps in the Apple App Store in 2019. Each of these can have any number of subscribers. These subscribers represent only a fraction of sensitive data across the web.

HIPAA regulations protect patient information held by covered entities. Private companies aren’t subject to HIPAA and information rules. Still, sensitive data does fall under other protection measures – in some instances, at least.

HIPAA no longer protects sensitive data once it passes to a third-party. Still, a problem persists.

Sensitive data can move back and forth between covered and noncovered organizations. This endless loop makes data protection a complex undertaking.

The division between these two worlds is melting away. The business of brokering private information is still new. As it matures, these boundaries will continue to dissolve.

HIPAA and Data Cybersecurity

Many companies that handle sensitive information have poor cybersecurity practices. As a result, they’re especially vulnerable to data compromise.

Enterprises that store a large amount of sensitive data are an attractive target. Hackers covet this information.

At-risk data may include social security numbers and medical records. It might also include any other personal information that these companies house, like addresses and payment info.

At the same time, no sensitive data is 100% safe. Hackers also go after low-risk industries. They do it because it’s easier to infiltrate those networks.

Cyberbreaches among financial services exposed over 350,000 sensitive files on average. Many cyberbreaches occurred at healthcare, drug, and biotech companies. The incidents exposed over 100,000 records each on average.

50% of all cyberbreaches in 2019 targeted healthcare organizations. 10% of the targets were financial firms. Additionally, 16% of attacks affected private companies.

The WannaCry ransomware attack cost the National Health Service $100 million in damage. In total, the healthcare field lost $25 billion to malicious digital activity in 2019.

Healthcare organizations experienced the highest volume of cyberattacks. Analysts forecast that number will skyrocket in 2020.

What Does HIPPA Cover?

HIPAA privacy laws encompass the disclosure of health information. They also include physical, technological, and administrative safeguards used to protect that data. For example, organizations must make sure to use a HIPAA compliant phone number.

The HIPPA rule ensures the availability, confidentiality, and integrity of patient health information. These safeguards protect the privacy of patients.

HIPAA regulations protect patients from harm. During a cyberbreach, hackers might expose, steal, or disclose sensitive patient information. HIPAA laws determine what happens if any of these events occur.

The idea is that informed patients can take action when hackers steal data. Consumers need to know when malicious actors compromise their information. This way, they can protect themselves from identity theft and fraud.

The rule mandates that organizations must tell patients when their data is at risk. Healthcare information comes in many forms, including:

  • Diagnoses
  • Drug information
  • Identifiable information
  • Insurance information
  • Lab results
  • Treatments

This information might also include phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses. It may also include birth dates or demographic data.

Information that falls under HIPAA law includes any health-related data. A HIPAA-covered organization that uses, stores or shares it falls under the rule. It also includes business associates of those entities.

According to HIPAA regulations, organizations must always protect sensitive data. However, HIPAA privacy doesn’t always apply.

It doesn’t cover records where an organization has removed all identifying information. It also doesn’t count when patients give consent to provide their data to a third-party.

How HIPAA Law Can Help Your Organization Stay in Compliance

HIPAA laws define the administrative actions required to protect healthcare information. It also outlines the policies and procedures needed to do the same.

The rules highlight appropriate maintenance and security measures to protect sensitive patient information. They also describe the desired conduct of enterprises that handle sensitive data.

Staying in Compliance: Take the First Step

HIPAA protection requires that organizations put in place physical safeguards. These safeguards protect patient data. Organizations must also use technological resources to protect patient records.

Furthermore, internal security methods must continue to work as an organization grows. By ensuring this, you can keep your organization in compliance.

Malicious actors continue to find new and innovative ways to compromise sensitive information. As they do, lawmakers will continue to make further recommendations.

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