Sometimes HIPAA can feel like a big headache for healthcare organizations, but these requirements keep both practices and their patients safe. As an organization, it isn’t enough to claim you’re HIPAA-compliant: you need to prove it with documentation.
HIPAA policies and procedures are an essential part of not only staying HIPAA compliant but also for helping your team understand how HIPAA compliance requirements apply to their everyday work. Your HIPAA policies and procedures document should address how you protect patient data through physical, administrative, and technical controls. This is different for every organization, but the ultimate goal is to document how you’re actually implementing HIPAA every day at your practice.
Not sure how to write HIPAA policies and procedures for your business? Get started with these 5 steps.
1. Hit on Every HIPAA Rule
HIPAA is complicated, and that means there’s a web of regulations that applies to your business. Depending on your size, who you serve, and your business model, you’ll need to comply with specific aspects of HIPAA. For example, the HIPAA Privacy Rule, Breach Notification Rule, and Minimum Necessary Requirement are just a few of the HIPAA rules you likely need to follow.
Since every organization is different, you need to customize your policies and procedures for the HIPAA rules that apply to your organization. Conducting a HIPAA risk assessment is a HIPAA requirement, and the process will help you identify sensitive data as well as threats and vulnerabilities. Understand which HIPAA rules apply to your business and create a checklist of requirements based on those rules. This way, you can create customized HIPAA policies that are tailored to how you do business.
2. Form a HIPAA Compliance Team to Write the Policies
Whether they’re full-time or have other duties, HIPAA requires you to have a Privacy Officer. This person is in charge of creating, maintaining, and enforcing your HIPAA policies and procedures.
Charge your Privacy Officer with forming a HIPAA compliance team. This team will be responsible for drafting the policies and procedures that apply to your organization. Instead of putting one person in charge of compliance, a committee will help you create a more effective HIPAA policy document.
To get started, ask the committee to document your current policies and procedures. Instead of asking your team to do work from memory, document their processes in your HIPAA policies and procedures document. This will help you evaluate whether you’re HIPAA compliant or if something needs to change.
3. Use a Template and Version Control
You don’t need to rewrite your HIPAA policies and procedures every time you update them. You’ll iterate this document over time, but that doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel. Create an internal document template to make it much easier to rework your policies.
Don’t make the language too cerebral or technical, either. Your HIPAA compliance committee should use plain language that’s easy to understand. After all, the easier your policies are to understand, the more likely your team will be to comply.
As you adjust the policies over time, remember to store old versions. HIPAA requires you to store your HIPAA policy version history for at least six years. Plus, it’s helpful revisiting earlier iterations to see how your organization changes over time.
4. Train Your Team
Creating your HIPAA policies and procedures is just the beginning. Once your Privacy Officer and committee finalize the policies, you’re required to share those policies with your team. Share the document with every staff member who needs to follow HIPAA; double check your sharing permissions to make sure they actually have access, too.
But access still isn’t enough to satisfy HIPAA. You also need to train your staff every year on your HIPAA policies and procedures. The purpose of this training is to ensure that every employee’s workflow matches with your procedures. That includes how to protect patient data, how to spot malicious activity, and what to do in the event of a breach.
HIPAA requires you to prove you trained your staff, too, so make sure you ask everyone to sign a document acknowledging that they received training.
5. Review and Update as Needed
The US government first created HIPAA in the 1990s. Technology has changed a lot since then, and that’s why you should always consider your HIPAA policies and procedures as a living document. Whether you experience internal changes or if HIPAA updates its rules, you need to anticipate iterations.
It’s a little meta, but you should also include policies in your HIPAA procedure document for updating the document itself. This means having a set process for how you amend the document, approve changes, and enact those changes.
Put HIPAA Compliance in Writing
HIPAA policies and procedures outline how you create policies and how they evolve over time. This internal document should guide your employee’s daily work and steer your business in the right direction. It may seem like a big headache, but HIPAA documentation helps you stay compliant and prepare for an audit, so solid policies are a must.
But if you’ve never created a policy and procedure document before, it can feel overwhelming. Streamline creation of your policies and procedures and get visibility into your HIPAA compliance status with a HIPAA compliance platform like Datica. We help healthcare organizations automate their HIPAA compliance so they can focus on what matters most: their patients. Get a Datica demo now to see how it works.