HIPAA Restrictions Bring New Challenges To Law Firms
Law firms interested in working with PHI data need to first ensure that their entire organization, as well as any associates or vendors, will meet all HIPAA requirements.
The importance of adhering to HIPAA regulations is nothing new to lawyers and law firms that work with medical providers and insurance companies. However, HIPAA, in its restrictions, is causing new challenges to law firms. One of the largest challenges faced by small firms that are growing into large organizations is establishing firm-wide HIPAA compliance that extends to the firm’s chosen technological solutions and third party vendors. This challenge will be further enhanced as HIPAA restrictions and regulations become even more stringent.
An Overview Of HIPAA Restrictions
The HIPAA privacy rule applies to a multitude of covered entities including, medical providers and insurance companies. These entities often work with third parties, such as lawyers or law firms. In the latter instances, the privacy rule will allow the covered entities to share Personal Health Information (PHI) with the third parties. When the law firms receive the PHI data they must ensure that they remain compliant with all HIPAA regulations. The compliance of law firms also extends to any third party that is associated with the specific firm; for example, IT providers, third-party backup vendors, or cloud providers.
To ensure that the firm, and each of its employees, remains HIPAA compliant the following safeguards should be implemented:
- Physical Safeguards — Law firms need to ensure that their printed data, IT equipment, offices, and physical networks are secure. Only people who are authorized and trained on HIPAA should be allowed to access the law firm’s servers, computers, or tablets that are associated with the PHI data.
- Technical Safeguards — Law firms need to ensure that the PHI data has been properly secured via technical safeguards. These protective measures might include: data encryption, password protection, and secure user access. Also, law firms should carefully monitor all system activity to ensure that the theft of PHI data doesn’t occur.
- Administrative Safeguards — Proper training in HIPAA restrictions and compliance is a must for all law firm staff members. As part of this training, law firms need to create and enforce emergency response procedures that will initiate data recovery and backup, while simultaneously ensuring that the PHI data remains secure in the event of a natural disaster or breach. If a data breach does occur, then the law firm, as well as its associates, need to stringently follow all HIPAA procedures for properly disclosing the breach to the public and appropriate authorities.
The Bottom Line: Law Firms Need To Remain HIPAA Compliant At All Times When Handling PHI
It is no secret that the federal government has become increasingly stringent regarding HIPAA compliance. With the potential of a $1.5 Million fine, law firms need to ensure that they remain compliant at all times by working with a trusted technology provider who can ensure that physical, technical, and administrative safeguards are met. To protect your law firm and its associates from violating HIPAA regulations, contact the technology experts at Radius Executive IT Solutions located in Boston and throughout New England via firstname.lastname@example.org or (978) 528-0110.