How Automation Can Help with Data Compliance in Health Care

October 28, 2022

HIPAA compliance should be embedded in the DNA of any health organization or business storing or processing PHI. But, it’s a tricky one to manage, and even if organizations are 99.9% sure that they are fully compliant, there is always that tiny room for doubt – and it’s starting to take its toll. 

Healthcare organizations are one of the most targeted and heavily fined industries in protecting data (Protected Health Information), accounting for 79% of all reported breaches.

So, how are Covered Entities (CEs) and Business Associates (BAs) keeping up with demanding HIPAA laws and regulations, and how can they ensure they’re always on course? Cue: Automation; revolutionizing healthcare compliance, and we’re not sorry about it. 


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Back up – What’s HIPAA compliance? 

HIPAA compliance is a federal law that applies to all organizations that deal with or handle Protected Health Information (PHI). The Privacy Rule (one of HIPAA’s four rules) dictates how organizations are legally allowed to obtain, store, handle and dispose of PHI. This rule also narrows down two types of organizations subject to The Privacy rule and, therefore, legally obligated to comply with HIPAA. Covered Entities (CE) and Business Associates (BA).

For these two types of organizations, HIPAA creates a national standard of safeguarding and handling PHI and requires them to implement specific policies, controls, risk management, and security protocols to meet this standard. Failure to do so is a criminal offense and can lead to harsh fines and possible criminal charges. 

Ultimately, HIPAA compliance refers to an organization’s ability to abide by the federal law and whether or not they are taking all the required steps to ensure that they are fostering an environment that puts security compliance at the forefront of all internal and external processes.

The Breach Notification Rule and the Security Rule are two key components of HIPAA compliance. Let’s break it down real quick.

Breach Notification Rule

This rule requires covered entities and their business associates to provide notification following a breach of unsecured PHI. A breach is an impermissible use or disclosure under the Privacy Rule that compromises the security or privacy of PHI. Key aspects include:

Notification Obligation: In case of a breach, entities must notify affected individuals, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), and, in certain cases, the media.

Timeliness of Notification: Notifications must be provided without unreasonable delay and no later than 60 days following the discovery of a breach.

Content of the Notification: The notification must include a description of the breach, the types of information involved, steps individuals should take to protect themselves, what the entity is doing to investigate and mitigate the breach, and contact information.

Security Rule

This rule specifies a series of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards for covered entities to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and security of electronic PHI (e-PHI). It includes:

Administrative Safeguards: Policies and procedures designed to clearly show how the entity will comply with the act, covering areas like training, emergency response, and access control.

Physical Safeguards: Controlling physical access to protect against inappropriate access to protected data, such as facility access controls, workstation use, and device and media controls.

Technical Safeguards: This involves technology and the policy and procedures for its use that protect e-PHI and control access to it. It includes access control, audit controls, integrity controls, and transmission security.

Together, these rules form a part of the broader HIPAA regulations designed to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

If you’re still wrapping your head around compliance and what it means for your business, here’s everything you need to know about HIPAA and whether or not your organization is subject to compulsory compliance. 

What is healthcare compliance software?

The importance of compliance can’t be overstressed, and neither can the sheer workload that it adds to the already high-intensity industry. In addition to the vast amount of work that goes into staying compliant, it’s only as effective as the capacity and ability of an organization’s workforce. This speaks to some of the most critical and prominent issues of HIPAA compliance. 

  • Manual efforts fail compared to modern cyber security threats. 
  • Accuracy and efficiency rarely go hand-in-hand when paired with a full schedule and consistent workflow. 
  • The risk of human error transcends all industries, policies, and processes. 
  • Collating vast data is time-consuming, and organizations can’t obtain data, analyze processes, train staff, conduct risk assessments, and implement changes at once. By the time they accomplish this, they have most likely been non-compliant and at risk for an extended time. 

It’s crucial to note that while automation significantly reduces the risk of error and streamlines processes, it should not completely replace human oversight. Effective HIPAA compliance requires a balance of automated solutions and expert human supervision.

An automated compliance software looks at all the biggest challenges and shrugs them off without even breaking a sweat. Automated compliance software solves these issues, simplifies the process, automatically collects evidence, mitigates error, tailors controls, and provides real-time updates on where your organization should make changes, implement better practices, or where there’s a potential risk. 

Compliance check-mate. 

These accomplishments are owed to leading-tech software that continuously track and monitor compliance processes and align them with the legal requirements and standards of HIPAA. Not only does it bullet-proof policies and procedures, but it streamlines the process and helps organizations reach consistent compliance up to 90% faster.  



The benefits of automation for the healthcare industry

HIPAA compliance is a battle best-faced head-on. But how sweet would it be if it didn’t have to be a battle at all? Here’s how data automation helps organizations in the healthcare industry (and all those that need to be HIPAA compliant) stay HIPAA compliant and dodge data breaches and fines. 

Improved workflow and patient safety culture

For those in the healthcare industry, chaos is no stranger, and employees are praised for their ability to think on their feet and make time-sensitive decisions. Naturally, when it comes to making quick but critical decisions, the admin and processes behind them are time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere. 

Through data compliance automation, healthcare professionals can refocus the time spent on manual processes (that are more susceptible to error), redirect it towards their other responsibilities, and ensure a consistent patient safety culture, despite their day-to-day responsibilities. 

Decrease the risk of fines and violations

As HIPAA is a federal law, the fines and penalties that come from violations or data breaches are brutal. Through automating compliance, organizations mitigate the risk of human error, as well as non-consistent compliance, and therefore ensure that they have implemented the correct controls and policies to prove due diligence. Although breaches still occur (even in HIPAA-compliant organizations), proving compliance during the event of a breach and following the correct breach notification protocol significantly decreases and potentially nullifies any penalties or financial consequences. 

Real-time compliance

You’re either 100% compliant or not at all. Compliance is contingent on the sustainability and consistency of everyday processes. Therefore, ensuring compliance requires an intentional and proactive approach to ensure no gaps or potential threats. 

Through automation, healthcare organizations can ensure compliance through real-time reporting and analytics and be alerted immediately on any instances of non-compliance. The average data breach took 212 days to identify and 75 days to contain in 2021. That’s about 211 days too long. 

Automation ensures that when there is a violation or potential risk of a breach, you can intercede immediately and take the necessary precautions before it’s a major breach. 

Effective self-audits

As there is no official and independent audit that confirms if an organization is HIPAA compliant, organizations are left with the responsibility of determining whether they are HIPAA compliant or not themselves. How? Through HIPAA self-assessments.

Naturally, this is the most critical step, as it’s the ultimate indicator of HIPAA compliance. The OCR only conducts official audits/investigations in case of a suspected violation or breach. Needless to say, the goal is to keep the OCR out of the audit process and to have a diligent, thorough, and robust self-assessment process that tests all organizational policies and controls with their ability to comply with the HIPAA rules. 

This is no small ask and is nearly impossible to conduct effectively and efficiently when relying on manual processes and insight. With everything needed to get HIPAA compliant in one place, smart automation tools allow CEs and BAs to prepare for their self-assessment quickly, simply and efficiently and become HIPAA compliant. Automated evidence collection, 24/7 control monitoring, security awareness training, policy center are just some of the features that make this happen.

While automation tools provide significant support, they cannot replace the need for ongoing human oversight and expertise in interpreting HIPAA requirements.

Beat the compliance curve

As with any law, there are constant updates and changes in legislation to improve the standards and controls. The HHS releases updates to notify organizations in the case of any addendums or changes regarding HIPAA. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for routine guidance or implementation queries. However, navigating the legal jargon and intricate policies and exceptions of HIPAA is a risky and time-consuming responsibility. It requires extreme attention to detail and confidence in your understanding and interpretation. 

Unfortunately, ignorance or lack of understanding does not offer organizations a get-out-of-jail-free card. Automated compliance software should always be aligned with the most recent HIPAA rules and regulations, mitigating this risk by ensuring that nothing is left to chance. 

Benefits of automating HIPAA compliance.

Compliance risks in healthcare

Unfortunately, the healthcare industry has been dealt a lousy hand regarding data risks and threats. With over 95% of all identity theft incidents originating from stolen healthcare records – there’s a colossal target on any organization that has contact with PHI, which is now worth 25 times more than a credit card. However, with such critical compliance risk, common threats are still prevalent. Fortunately, with relatively straightforward solutions. 

Lack of due diligence

Correct policies and procedures are unnegotiable regarding compliance. Yet, there is still too much room for potential breaches and violations. In fact, 61% of insider threat incidents involve negligent employees. Due diligence processes include annual risk assessments and continuously reviewing external and internal business arrangements, conflicts of interest, and any potential gaps in the system. However, this will always only be as strong as the organization’s ability to review, analyze and adapt them accurately. 

Incorrect or inefficient security controls

HIPAA’s Security Rule sets out a list of security controls required to meet HIPAA standards of protecting e-PHI. However, many organizations still fail to effectively implement and manage the correct security controls. For many, data security has become contingent on finding secure, accessible, and reliable technology. 

Ineffective security awareness training

Regular security awareness training is mandatory for HIPAA compliance. But how much protection does it truly provide? Employees need to practise what they learn in the training in their everyday responsibilities. In a 2019 study, only 63% of organizations admit to testing their employees on their HIPAA training knowledge.

So, how does an organization ensure their employees take the training seriously? Well, Scytale offers security awareness training for their customers, in which they can track and monitor who has completed this training and who has not..

Automation platforms: top 10 features they should include 

Although automated data compliance reinvents the way CEs and BAs approach compliance, it’s still critical that they use compliance software solutions that provide the necessary functionality and features. A good compliance software should include the following (it’s by no coincidence that Scytale exhausts this list). 

HIPAA risk assessmentAutomatically assesses areas where your organization’s PHI is at risk.
HIPAA self-assessmentAllows you to complete your HIPAA self-audit with all requirements through the tool.
HIPAA awareness trainingEnsures your employees are learning and maintaining best practices to protect patients’ PHI.
Customized HIPAA controlsA list of controls customized to your organization’s specific operations.
Automated control monitoringMonitors your controls 24/7 and alerts you immediately if there is any non-compliance.
Policy templatesProvides HIPAA-aligned policy templates.
Automated evidence collectionCollects evidence of your HIPAA controls automatically.
HR compliance management automationIncludes automated HR onboarding & offboarding security practices.
Vendor risk managementManages vendor security assessments efficiently and tracks their compliance.
In-app supportAllows you to receive human support.

Automate compliance with Scytale

If your organization needs to ensure HIPAA compliance, trade the anxiety for automation. At Scytale, we provide everything you need to get (and stay) HIPAA compliant in one place and 90% faster.