Terry Hayes

HIPAA regulation: The myths around integrating compliance and patient care

By Terry Hayes  /  25 Feb 2016

Keeping healthcare information flowing to the right people, at the right time, creates the potential for more effective patient care and population health management. However, a greater number of moving parts also means greater risk. With personal health data moving more frequently through an increasing variety of digital channels, the complexity of communicating in a secure manner as mandated by HIPAA regulations is more important than ever, as is the risk to the confidentiality and integrity of patient data.

Within the healthcare industry, HIPAA is known to be intricate and difficult to navigate on the path to compliance. I’ve found that many physicians and allied healthcare professionals don’t have a solid understanding of HIPAA in terms of what’s required and how it can help to actually improve patient care. We’ve debunked a few of the most common myths:

HIPAA stands in the way of patient care – HIPAA has three core areas: confidentiality, integrity and availability. These regulations are intended to mesh with and provide a foundation for the kind of proper, efficient exchange of information that grounds new models of collaborative care. To improve clinical communication and patient care, healthcare organizations should assess how their members communicate and build compliance into the model in ways that enhance workflow. By finding secure ways to encourage and streamline the flow of information, healthcare organizations can align the need for HIPAA compliance with the trend toward greater collaboration and the goal of better patient care.

Compliance can’t pave the way of meaningful use – Organizations hold the responsibility for assessing and adopting the technologies that best serve their overall goals and structure, while being compliant with HIPAA – which creates a challenge that leads many to believe meaningful use can’t be obtained. The flexibility this responsibility provides to healthcare organizations is essential to achieving HIPAA’s third core tenet: availability of information. The ability to store and transmit data securely means that it can be shared among all those on the care team—keeping the right people informed in a timely manner. Security compliance actually encourages the exchange of information that can bring greater efficiencies and better outcomes in the healthcare model.

HIPAA’s complexity leaves no room for improvement in security strategies – Despite the emphasis on communication and security, the solutions most organizations rely on are fragmented. Instead, organizations should look into comprehensive strategies that incorporate all pieces of patient health information. According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by PerfectServe that examined causes for healthcare communications breakdowns, 13% of healthcare professionals admit that to facilitate patient care, they have sent patient health information through unsecure text or voice messages with their personal smartphone in the past year. In addition, 21% acknowledge having received unsecure communications from colleagues via the same manner.

In a world of rapidly expanding communication methods and applications, it’s easy to become misguided by these myths, keeping physicians and healthcare professional from seeing HIPAA’s true capabilities. It’s important to understand these intricacies as organizations review and work to improve their risk management strategies, and ultimately embrace more collaborative care models and technologies that make care more accessible and efficient.

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