Staying compliant and ensuring the privacy of client data is paramount in the COVID-19 era. Companies are collecting more health information than ever, so it’s crucial to have a system in place that helps protect it.
HIPAA compliance visitor management is a growing concern for healthcare organizations. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires covered entities to establish policies and procedures to ensure the privacy and security of protected health information (PHI). This includes visitor management systems that allow employees to view or access PHI without violating HIPAA regulations.
But what are your responsibilities when it comes to securing the data you collect and why is it so important?
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It was designed to ensure that the electronic collection of protected health information (PHI) does not violate an individual’s privacy. PHI includes physical and electronic information an organization collects and retains on an individual’s health status and healthcare. It also includes associated data such as insurance information, photos, social security numbers, etc.
In the workplace, HIPAA regulations allow employees to share their health records with employer-sponsored healthcare programs while shielding this personal information from the employers themselves. For their part, healthcare companies are required to protect this information from hacking and other unauthorized access as well as the loss or improper disposal of medical information.
Any provider or company with access to PHI should actively put in place measures to comply with HIPAA. This isn’t a job for checklists and spreadsheets, but rather a sophisticated tracking system, especially if your company uses visitor tracking and COVID-19 compliance data of those who enter your facility.
How COVID-19 Makes HIPAA Compliance More Important Than Ever
In September of 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights released guidance entitled, “HIPAA, COVID-19 Vaccination, and the Workplace.” As more and more employers were collecting COVID-19 test and vaccination data, it became necessary to clarify what HIPAA compliance means in the age of COVID-19.
The guidance regards the HIPAA Privacy Rule and under what circumstances data can be shared regarding COVID-19 vaccination status. It states that individuals and business entities may ask about a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status and that employers may request documentation of vaccination status without violating HIPAA. It also clarifies the circumstances under which healthcare entities can share vaccination information with employers.
Changing guidelines are just one of the many reasons that companies need a plan to safely store data. And if temperature checks and vaccination confirmations are part of your visitor management protocol, it’s important to monitor both compliance and security so you’re notified immediately of any privacy breaches or changes in public health guidance.
The Costs of HIPAA Non-Compliance
Failing to comply with HIPAA can be a costly mistake, and with more people than ever working from home, the potential for security problems increases. Employees are printing private data at home and using nonsecure network connections to access files. Whenever this happens, it should be documented and justified, and companies should monitor closely which employees access which data.
Penalties for noncompliance with HIPAA can range from $100 to $50,000 (per violation) and top out at $1.5 million and jail time if repeated, willful negligence is discovered. So it’s important to carry out regular HIPAA workplace risk assessments and train employees properly.
Of course, a lot of security issues can be avoided with the help of a visitor management system (VMS) which is already set up to monitor compliance. Visitor management systems provide real-time visibility into who has access to patient records and where they go within the organization. They can also allow administrators to track and block unauthorized visitors from accessing sensitive areas of the network.
How a Visitor Management System helps with HIPAA Compliance
Visitor management solutions like Sine are designed to meet the requirements of HIPAA compliance. They offer a variety of features such as password protection, encryption, audit trails, and user authentication.
Because most of the information collected by a VMS from visitors on-site (such as names, photos for badges, country of origin, etc.) is not protected data, a good VMS will separate this information from PHI.
Sine’s visitor management software is designed to spot red flags and provide real-time data so problems can be solved before they do any real damage. The ability to run compliance reports at any time and easily communicate directly with employees are just a few more of the features that can help you remain compliant with HIPAA.