5 Things You Need to Know for HIPAA Compliance in 2024

HIPAA compliance is changing. New ways of working in the healthcare industry, the migration to digital, and evolving technologies have driven updates to the HIPAA privacy rule in 2023 that will become fully enforceable in 2024. But it’s not just the official rules that have changed; it’s also the approach to compliance. 

If the evolution of HIPAA is necessary, then the shift of mindset is also necessary. Healthcare organizations must protect PHI (protected health information), continue to build trust with patients and protect themselves from the risks of non-compliance, and they can do that with the proper considerations in mind.  

To stay compliant, pay attention to these 5 key trends next year. 

1. Convergence of HIPAA Security and Privacy 

With the advent of Electronic Medical Records and other new healthcare technology, security, and privacy have started to converge to the point where they have become nearly one and the same. Sensitive ePHI cannot be protected without proper security, and security is in place to protect patient privacy. 

In the past, the HIPAA privacy rule and security rules could be thought of as having distinct purposes. While this is still true in some ways, it’s becoming apparent that the two rules are growing stickier with each other. Therefore, for the present and future, healthcare leaders should consider them as intersecting elements of HIPAA compliance.  

Increasingly, implementing proper procedures for data handling, patient rights, and effective security practices is at the forefront. The lines are blurring between security and privacy, and keeping this perspective in mind will be critical in 2024 and beyond, especially with a new HIPAA Final Rule set to be published later in the year that will change Security Rule enforcement and information-sharing practices regarding substance abuse and mental health cases.   

Additionally, patient rights to access data are being more clearly defined in 2024, as well as the responsibility of healthcare organizations to respond to requests, verify the identity of parties requesting PHI, and adequately handle data with third parties.

To prepare for the new year and newly enforceable changes, your entire staff must be fully aware of the changes and prepare to stay compliant. Implement workforce training for your team that gets every employee up to speed on the updates –– you probably want to train more than once. You can use HIPAA compliance software to set automated reminders to remind you to schedule training sessions, conduct HIPAA risk assessments, and execute HIPAA compliance training.

2. Workforce Training: Phishing and Cyber-Awareness

Employee education has become critically important to following HIPAA compliance, particularly when protecting against breaches. Since cyberattacks are growing more sophisticated, it’s easy for anyone to fall victim to threats like phishing attacks. 83% of all companies experience a phishing attack each year, and each phishing attack costs companies $4.91 million, on average. To combat threats like phishing, you must train your entire workforce thoroughly and regularly on identifying signs of an attack, correctly reporting the incident, and taking steps to safeguard against threats. This can be done on a repeatable basis for your entire staff, and incorporate this training into your onboarding. 

Use software like an LMS (learning management system) or your HIPAA Compliance solution to help with your workforce training.

3. Incorporating Cybersecurity Best Practices with 405(d) 

As changes to HIPAA continue to take effect and become valid grounds for government sanction penalties, effective cybersecurity must be a top priority, not only for data protection but to prevent harmful data breaches and theft. However it can be challenging to know how to improve your organization’s security standards and procedures.  

In 2017, a task group comprised of experts in IT, healthcare, cybersecurity, and privacy came together to create free resources for the public to strengthen security practices and help people understand Section 405(d) of the Cybersecurity Act (CSA) of 2015. Section 405(d) of the CSA, called “Aligning the Health Care Industry Security Approaches,” addresses how to improve cybersecurity in the healthcare industry through recognized best practices and methodologies.   

Your team should be well aware of these best practices, and their departments must review these standards. Check out the official website to access templates, resources, news, and guidelines.  

As you build on your knowledge of security practices, remember to conduct a regular SRA (Security Risk Assessment). A HIPAA compliance software solution can help you complete this critical check, and contacting a 405(d) expert for help implementing best practices can also ensure your regular SRA completion. 

4. The Importance of Remediation and Implementation 

The DOJ emphasizes that no organization can succeed in compliance without taking proper remedial action and that the lack of proper remediation and implementation increases a company’s likelihood of facing charges and penalties.   

That’s why in 2024, more organizations are turning towards compliance automation software to manage their risk assessment processes and avoid the consequences of non-compliance. One of the major benefits of automation is that you can spend less time assessing risks and more time remediating, which is a challenge for all organizations but the best way to improve security and compliance posture. 

One way to mitigate the challenge of switching to automation is to choose the right partner to guide you through the risk management journey. This alleviates the burden of having to implement and master automation on your own. 

In addition to switching to automation, implementing updated procedures for data handling and security best practices can also be a struggle for smaller organizations, so focusing on prioritizing, centralizing, and templatizing, and tracking remediation will be more important than ever. 

5. Responding to an Incident: How to Get Yourself Ready 

If a data breach or cyberattack on your organization or medical practice does occur, you must be ready to resolve the incident quickly and prove to governing bodies that you put measures in place to try and prevent the attack. Work with your team to create effective response and reporting procedures for every type of incident.  

Note that the HHS lists all breaches reported within the last 24 months that are currently under investigation. Your team should monitor the list as a reminder of the increasing prominence of cyberattacks and data breaches. They should also use this resource to reflect on their own security procedures and weaknesses. 

If you do experience a security incident, follow the industry standard incident response steps for guidance: 

  • Prepare: Review all your IT assets at your healthcare organization, from computers and tablets to software and electronic data. Once you’ve compiled a complete list of IT assets and their roles, set up consistent monitoring and determine the signs that indicate a disturbance. 
  • Detect and Analyze: Collect data from all your programs and watch for attack or breach indicators. If an indicator is identified, then analyze the current status of your systems and decide whether anything deviates from the expected baseline to a threatening level. 
  • Contain, Eradicate, Recover: Your team’s first priority is to stop the attack before it causes more damage. When there is an incident,  contact your security partner right away. Your IT experts should have a containment plan for multiple incident types ready to go. Once the threat is contained, it’s time to switch from defense to offense: Take steps to eradicate the threat from your systems. That might mean resetting passwords, removing malware, and executing all necessary updates. After the threat is eliminated, restore your systems and resume normal operations. 
  • Post-Incident Review: Once your systems are recovered, review the recent incident and use it for future learning. Decide if there are any ways to improve your response plan and if so, update your current procedures.  

Start Planning for 2024 

To ensure HIPAA compliance for next year, it’s imperative that you understand the upcoming changes to HIPAA  regulations, incorporate cybersecurity best practices, and prepare your workforce to identify threats. The right HIPAA compliance solution helps you prepare with SRAs, automated reminders, workforce training, and more. Learn more about HIPAA One today. 

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