How HIPAA-Compliant Smart AI Is Revolutionizing Healthcare

HIPAA-compliance means keeping patient information secure and respecting their privacy. HIPAA is much more than a standard practice, it is an ethical matter. 

Every aspect of healthcare must be in compliance with HIPAA, even the technology. 

This article will explore smart AI technology and its lasting effects on healthcare.

What Does Smart AI Look Like in Healthcare? 

Smart Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the use of algorithms designed to perform certain tasks. These algorithms can review, interpret, and suggest solutions to complex medical problems. 

AI healthcare advancements include a variety of inventions. The innovations range from early detection to domestic abuse prevention.

Smart AI is also a cost-effective alternative for medical professionals. In 2014, the health AI industry was valued at an estimated $600 million, and is now on track to be worth $150 billion by 2026. 

The industry is growing and changing medicine at a fast pace. And these rapid innovations pose the question of how to maintain the integrity of patient health information.

HIPAA Laws in Regards to Practices and Patient Information 

In 1996, congress passed The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The act is a federal law that demanded national standards be put in place to protect patients. HIPAA decreases healthcare fraud, mandates confidentiality, and establishes standards for health-related electronic billing

Two main rules fall under HIPAA, and they are the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule. The first addresses procedures for saving, sharing, and accessing information. While the latter outlines national security standards that protect all electronic data. 

Technological advancements in the medical field are not new. And their increased development and usage created a need for strict guidelines. 

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act saw the installment of the HITECH Act in 2009. Together, these acts call for the adoption of information technology in healthcare. 

HIPAA Security

Technology adds convenience to both medical professionals and patients. It provides quick results and helps to save more lives.

Technology is necessary for healthcare, as is the safety of patient data. But with the use of smart AI comes the risk of security breaches.

Medical records are valuable, not just to patients and doctors but to hackers. They are in fact between ten to forty times more valuable than credit cards on the black market. Their value stems from containing social security numbers.

Cyberattacks can cost hospitals upwards of $6.2 billion each year so having a security system in place is a must. 

The benefits of smart AI stretch beyond servicing patients and streamlining medical records. It also aids in protecting those records and making IT security more proactive. 

Smart AI security works by using machine-learning apps. These apps use historical data to recognize malware patterns of both known and unknown programs. 

Current AI IT technology helps hospitals do the following:

  • identify new threats
  • respond and isolate data breaches
  • protect connected medical devices
  • extend security resources 

Having technology in place for when security is compromised is important. It is also necessary to have policies and procedures for breach prevention

Automating IT security systems helps to reduce financial liability, and protect patients’ information. 

Compliance and Technology

HIPAA compliance is something that is always evolving, much like smart AI. When new technology is introduced to healthcare, it must comply with the current HIPAA laws. 

There are many ways to implement new AI while maintaining compliance with HIPAA. When adding or updating systems it’s important to have the following in place:

  • access to stored data shared with appropriate parties 
  • encrypted data 
  • de-identified data when conducting research
  • updated policies and procedures to reflect current HIPAA laws
  • a signed business associate agreement (BAA) before sharing any protected health information (PHI) 

The Future of AI and Healthcare 

As quickly as technology is being produced, it is being introduced and used in every aspect of the medical field. From training to diagnosing and treating. There’s no doubt that more tools will be created but what does that mean for the future of healthcare? 

Smart AI is used to provide clinical decision support and information management. This allows patients to connect with their doctors quickly via telemedicine which helps to increase convenience and comfortability. It also allows for doctors to expand their scope of knowledge through AI training. 

The future of smart AI in healthcare is limitless as we are constantly moving to more digital alternatives. Within the next six years, we are expected to see growth in the following

  • robot-assisted surgery  
  • virtual nursing assistants 
  • fraud detection 
  • administrative assistance 
  • dosage error reduction 
  • clinical trials 
  • preliminary diagnosis 
  • automated image diagnosis

The savings from robot-assisted surgery and virtual nursing and administrative assistants alone is estimated to be valued at $78 billion by 2026

Key Takeaways 

Not only is smart AI beneficial to clients and healthcare professionals, but it is an extremely lucrative business.

With ease and convenience comes great risk as we leap further into a more digitized world. It’s important now more than ever to have proactive policies and procedures in place surrounding smart AI and to constantly update them to ensure the privacy of patient data. 

It’s clear that smart AI is a force and will continue changing our medical experience for the better. It allows for quicker diagnosing and more customized treatments for the patient’s needs. The tools are both efficient and affordable and are a necessity for healthcare workers around the world.

With innovations continuing to take place, smart AI will continue to save money and lives. 

Have questions or want more information? Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Cybersecurity Threats Are on the Rise in the Midst of Coronavirus

Did you know that over 2 million people had their medical identity stolen in 2014 alone? 

Medical identity theft is now a big business for cyber hackers. If even one of your patients has their medical identity stolen it can cost them thousands of dollars and untold headaches in paperwork. 

You don’t want your medical practice to be the reason one of your patients has to go through medical identity theft. Staying vigilant against cybersecurity threats should be a priority for you.  

With everything going on right now it can be easy to forget about keeping your systems and networks secure. You likely have staff members working from home as they practice social distancing. 

However, they must maintain caution throughout their workday. It can become easy to forget you’re on a work computer as you check email quickly. And this is exactly what the criminals are counting on. Right now they are specifically targeting the healthcare sector as they know that life is far from ordinary in your medical office. 

If you’re overwhelmed about not knowing what to look for or how to protect yourself, don’t worry. Keep reading to see how the criminals are targeting businesses and your best practices for protecting your patient’s private information. 

Start With Education About Cybersecurity Threats

Educate your employees about what to look out for to avoid becoming a victim of the latest hacking scams. Some prime examples are to not download third-party apps on their work laptops. These can provide easy avenues for hackers to access a secure laptop.

Additionally, when it comes to email, emphasize to your employees not to open any attachments that come from external email addresses. This is a prime way hackers like to get into your employees’ computers. 

With a little education, you won’t have to worry about compromising your patients’ secure information. From demanding money to doing it simply for the joy of saying they succeeded, hackers everywhere don’t have a singular reason for their crimes.

Unfortunately, they have a singular focus on healthcare companies right now. So do everything you can to protect your practice that you’ve worked so hard to build up. 

Stay Vigilant Against Cybersecurity Threats

Keeping your office secure from cyber-criminals goes beyond creating secure passwords. While this is a very important piece to enduring your office computers and software programs are safe, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. 

Elite hackers are working overtime right now amid the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic. And your medical office is their favorite target. They know you don’t have the same IT budget as the bigger hospitals, yet you still have all the pertinent information about your patients.

Hackers are counting on your fear of breaking HIPAA laws by accident. They know that you’ll do anything to avoid your patients’ private information being exposed. And so, they work hard to hack your system then blackmail you into paying them so they don’t expose your security breach.

However, you must stay diligent during these times. You might have staff working from home, but ensure that they are still using every precaution to keep your patient’s private information secure. 

Nobody Is out of Reach

Nobody is above being targeted by hackers. Recently the World Health Organization released a statement that hackers had been actively attacking their server, website, and internal email system. The statement issued by the WHO emphasized not clicking on any links within emails or other messaging systems, such as WhatsApp.

With everyone working online right now, the scammers know you’re an easy target. They know you’re still communicating with your internal staff. And they’re determined to access your system in any way possible.

In the hacking news world, now is the time to be extremely vigilant in your security systems and practices. You can’t be too careful when it comes to protecting your patients’ private health information. 

Keep the Walls High in Your Security Measures

From phishing to malware and ransomware to regular hacking, cyber-criminals are using everything they have to hurt you. You need to give as much attention to your security measure to avoid being their latest victim. 

You might consider your IT department as an afterthought. But cyber-criminals give it great consideration, and so should you. Learn how to avoid hacking scams by educating yourself and your staff on the top ways criminals attack businesses. 

The criminals are continuously looking for the security gaps in your infrastructure. You must not let your guard down at any time. 

You Too Can Fight Cyber-Criminals

Your patients come to you with their most pressing health questions. They trust you to keep their information private. It is your responsibility to ensure that your medical office is as secure as possible.

From your administrators to your staff, it is everyone’s responsibility to frequently change their passwords, use difficult to figure out passwords, and to be especially leery of any external links sent to their emails.
Cybersecurity threats are on the rise. And, these basic precautions can go a long way in protecting your practice from being the next victim of a hacking scam. 

Yes, it’s important to keep your staff compliant with HIPAA laws, however, this is no longer enough. You’re can’t stop at worrying about your staff accidentally, or maliciously, leaking private information about your patients. You also need to protect your patients from the criminals looking to attack your database.

Don’t assume that because you’re a small business they won’t bother with your office. They will because they know you don’t have the resources to keep your security walls up at all times.

If you have any questions about how you can safeguard your patient database, email system, and other secure information, reach out to us today. We would love to show you how we can help you keep your office safe from cyber-criminals.

HIPAA Compliance Guide: A Guide on How to Be HIPAA Compliant When Working Remotely

Are you a physician? Do you work in a private practice or a clinic setting? Are you a healthcare facility or a business that works with the healthcare industry?

If you collect, store, share, and/or use patient information, you must follow HIPAA rules. If you’re unsure about how to become HIPAA compliant, continue reading. This article will explain HIPAA and compliance strategies.

You will also learn about making sure your remote workers meet HIPAA standards.

What Is the HIPAA Law?

Congress passed The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also passed the Privacy Rules to implement the Act. HIPAA ensures the following:

  • Transfer and continuous health insurance coverage when someone changes or loses their job
  • Decreases health care abuse and fraud
  • Established standards for the handling of all health-related electronic billing and processing
  • Mandates protection and confidential processing of all protected health information

HHS and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) implement and enforce the HIPAA Privacy Rule. They have the authority to impose civil money penalties for violations.

What Is PHI?

Protected health information (PHI) is the central focus of HIPAA and the Privacy Rule. All healthcare providers and facilities must ensure safe and confidential handling of PHI. This rule includes all third parties and business associates working with the facility or provider.

What Is a Covered Entity or Business Associate?

The HIPAA Privacy rule strictly defines covered entities and business associates (CE/BA). These are organizations that interact and share PHI with your facility.

How to Become HIPAA Compliant

Today, it’s not enough to be HIPAA compliant. By law, you must be ready to show how you meet HIPAA compliance requirements. The following is a guide to ensure your readiness.

Search for possible PHI and electronic (ePHI) vulnerabilities and risk-mitigation strategies. Select an individual to develop and implement policies and procedures. Ensure all CE/BAs are HIPAA compliant before granting access to PHI or ePHI.

Educate and document that all employees who handle PHI have completed HIPAA training. Track staff compliance with established policies and procedures.

Set up physical safeguards including restricted access to areas that contain PHI. Maintain a record of who accesses PHI. Develop policies related to the transfer, disposal, and re-use of any electronic media.

Place barriers to limit visual and auditory access to PHI by unauthorized individuals.

Use access controls to PHI data via passwords or other secure methods. Protect the PHI from unauthorized changes and data breaches during electronic transmission. Develop procedures for the proper way to destroy PHI when appropriate.

CE/BAs must adhere to HIPAA Privacy Rules as well. Compliance assessments must occur on a routine basis.

What Is a HIPAA Security Breach?

HIPAA § 164.402 defines a breach as any acquisition, access, use, or disclosure of PHI. This rule excludes the following situations.

The first is an unintentional breach by staff members of authorized (CE/BA). It’s considered unintentional if the acquisition, access, or use was made in good faith.

The action must have occurred within their scope of authority. Last, it must not have led to further use or disclosure.

Inadvertent disclosure involves the access and sharing of PHI between authorized persons at a CE/BA. The PHI must not have been used or disclosed in any further manner.

Last, the CE/BA must, in good faith, believe the unauthorized person who received the PHI won’t keep or use it.

Steps to Take If a Breach Occurs

If someone in a facility suspects a possible breach, an investigation must take place. They must determine if the breach meets HIPAA’s “low probability of compromise” threshold. Facilities should assume a breach if they suspect a compromised PHI privacy and security.

The “date of discovery” describes the date that a CE/BA or facility finds a credible breach. If the breach involved over 500 people, notify a prominent media outlet in the affected area. Also, notify the HHS. All involved individuals must also receive a notification.

In cases involving less than 500 people, the facility/CE/BA can keep a log of relevant data. They must notify HHS within 60 days after the end of the calendar year.

How Do You Prevent Security Breaches?

HIPAA only mandates initiation of the breach notification process for unsecured PHI. Thus, let’s turn our attention to breach prevention.

Develop policy and procedure manuals for the following:

  • Security
  • Disaster recovery
  • Patient privacy

Also, include manuals covering provider, employee, patient, and CE/BA procedures.

Complete a risk assessment of physical, technical, and personnel vulnerabilities. How many people and devices have access to PHI? What natural disasters occur in your area that might compromise security?

All employees must complete privacy training on a routine basis. How will you structure this training? How will you document staff participation?

Steps to Take to Ensure HIPAA Compliance with Remote Workers

Today’s workplace has changed dramatically. Many individuals now work from home or other remote locations. They may travel for their work activities as well.

This can make HIPAA compliance more challenging. The following suggestions can help ensure the protection and compliance of remote workers.

  • Ensure home wireless routers have encryption capability
  • Change wireless router passwords on a set schedule
  • Ensure all personal devices with access to PHI are encrypted and password protected
  • Don’t allow access to the facility network until devices are configured, have firewalls, and antivirus protection
  • Encrypt PHI before transmission
  • Mandate that all employees use a VPN when remotely accessing the company network
  • Provide all employees with a HIPAA-compliant shredder
  • Provide lockable file cabinets or safes to store hardcopy PHI

Develop policies and procedures outlining expectations for employee work protocols. Prior to beginning remote work, have employees sign a Confidentiality Agreement. If you allow employees to use their own device, establish a Bring Your Own Device Agreement.

Behavioral protocols may include the following.

  • Never allow anyone else to use your device that contains PHI
  • Mandate adherence to media sanitization policies
  • Mandate that employees disconnect from the company network when they stop working.
  • Set up IT configured timeouts that disconnect the employee from the network

Review and document all remote access activity. 

Are You a Healthcare Provider or in Charge of a Health Facility?

All businesses that collect, store, process, and share PHI must maintain HIPAA compliance. This article described how to become HIPAA compliant. It also addressed special considerations for remote workers

HIPAA Security Suite provides solutions to assist healthcare organizations and CE/Bas meet HIPAA regulations. We also help you ensure ongoing compliance. Contact us today to ask questions and learn more about our services.

HIPAA Violation Fines and Penalties: What Are They in 2020?

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was put in place to protect the rights and confidentiality of patients. 

Violating HIPAA is a big deal for medical professionals, and there are hefty fines associated with it. If you work in the healthcare industry, it’s important to stay up-to-date with evolving HIPAA regulations, violations, and their corresponding fines.

Fines may increase as the years go by, and they have increased for 2020. If you’re not up to date on HIPAA penalties, continue reading to learn all about HIPAA violation fines and punishments.

What is a HIPAA Violation?

HIPAA helps to protect the private health information of patients and health plan members. Any breach in this protection, whether purposeful or not, can be considered a HIPAA violation.

There are hundreds of ways that HIPAA can be violated, and healthcare professionals are expected to be aware of them so that they don’t run into problems. Professionals are trained to comply with HIPAA standards and provisions to ensure the safety of private data and health information of their patients.

What Happens if You Violate HIPAA?

In short, it varies.

Not all HIPAA violations are the same. Rather, there are different levels of violations that are taken into consideration when the penalty is being discussed. 

Not all violations are equal, and intentions factor in. If the act was willful or willfully negligent, it’s likely that the penalty is going to be higher. If it was accidental or unavoidable, the penalty is going to be lower. 

Penalties range from being only financial to being more criminal in nature. It all depends on the nature of the violation and the intention behind it, as well as any steps that were taken within an acceptable timeframe to rectify the situation.

Level 1

Level 2 violations are going to carry the lowest penalties. These violations are ones that couldn’t be avoided. The entity or person in question could have been ignorant of the violation and (even with all due diligence) not known about it in time. 

Level 2

Level 2 violations are still not purposeful. There was a reasonable cause for the violation, and the entity or individual should have known about it before a violation took place. 

Level 3

Level 3 violations begin to get more serious. For a level 3 violation, the action had to have been willfully negligent. That said, the violation was corrected within an acceptable time limit (or within 30 days) so the penalty is softened.

Level 4

These have the highest penalties for HIPAA violations. For a level 4 violation, the action had to have been willful or willfully negligent. There also must have been no timely attempt to rectify the situation. 

What Are the HIPAA Violation Fines?

The penalties vary based on the level of violation. Each financial penalty is per violation, so if multiple breaches happened at once, they can add up to a significant number. For the purpose of this, consider the penalty for a single violation. 

The cost of civil monetary penalties has gone up in 2020, so it’s important to keep updated if you’re in the healthcare industry.

Level 1 Violations: The minimum penalty is $119, while the maximum penalty is $59,522. The maximum amount that can be charged during a single calendar year is $1,785,651.

Level 2 Violations: For the next tier, the minimum penalty is $1,191, and the maximum penalty is $59,522. The penalty cap for the year is $1,785,651.

Level 3 Violations: For this level, the minimum penalty rises to $11,904 while the maximum penalty rises again to $59,522. The cap for the penalty is $1,785,651.

Level 4 Violations: For the highest tier of violations, the penalty begins at $59,522. The maximum and the calendar year cap are both $1,785,651.

For lower-level violations, the employee (if it was an individual) may also lose their job, or be subject to intensive further training and observation in order to maintain their position in the hospital or office. For willful violations, the employee is almost certain to lose their position.

Are There Criminal Penalties for HIPAA Violations?

In some situations, there’s more to a penalty than simple HIPAA violation vines. Some HIPAA violations are considered criminal offenses and can result in jail time. Offenses like these are nearly always willful and generally intended to cause some kind of harm.

For example, if a healthcare professional knowingly shared private health information for financial gain, this would be a criminal offense against HIPAA. All use or disclosure of private healthcare information has to be covered by the HIPAA privacy rule. 

Criminal HIPAA violations have their own tier system to designate levels and punishments.

Level 1: The person or entity had reasonable cause for the violation or was unaware of the violation. This can end in one year in prison.

Level 2: The person or entity was obtaining private health information under false pretenses. This can end in up to five years in prison.

Level 3: The person or entity was obtaining private health information for personal use or gain, or with malicious intent. This can end in up to ten years in prison. 

Are You Up to Date with HIPAA Penalties in 2020?

If you work in medicine, it’s important to keep yourself and your staff updated with changes in HIPAA regularly. Many HIPAA violations are accidental, but the HIPAA violation fines will still impact the staff and practice and could end in imprisonment. 

Having medical staff brush up on their HIPAA training regularly and keeping close tabs on private medical data is a good way to avoid any violations and penalties, especially in a time where there are more hackers and data breaches than ever. There is a hacker attack every 39 seconds and this breach, while not purposeful, could land you in trouble.

For more information on HIPAA and how to protect yourself from violations, check out our site.