The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 is 20 years old, so you have a lot of experience with following its requirements. Your healthcare office has several security measures in place to stay HIPAA compliant, but you may be overlooking a key area: your digital copiers. Here are a few ways you could be compromising your patients' health information due to this oversight.
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Previously, when you wanted to conduct Bates Stamping for legal documents, you had to download software or find room in the budget for an expensive piece of equipment. However, thanks to multifunctional copiers, this process is now much easier.
Instead of struggling with difficult applications or investing a large part of your budget into a single purpose device, you can do Bates Stamping with the push of a button on your digital copier. This functionality is the kind of thing the legal industry dreams of.
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As a healthcare office manager, you have distinct goals, not the least of which is to make sure that staff can access medical records at a moment's notice, as this can sometimes make the difference between life and death. To address this, you might feel that the cloud is the tool to use.
However, you also have to protect patients' medical information. The cloud has experienced several newsworthy failures to protect personal information lately, and you don't want your patients' records to be newsworthy, too. Considering your need to protect patient privacy and comply with HIPAA regulations, you might even want to avoid using the cloud altogether because it's too big a risk.
You can have the best of times or you can have the worst of times when it comes to buying or leasing a fleet of photocopiers with a managed print service contract.
If you have the wisdom to carefully research your office equipment partner, you can look forward to years of hassle-free productivity.
If you foolishly take shortcuts and settle for any old vendor, prepare for years of lost days on the phone frantically trying to get your equipment to work.
The difference between wisdom and foolishness is communication. Only by talking to your potential vendors can you avoid long years of digital copiers that just don't seem to function.
You have to operate with a budget professionally and personally. The same questions come up no matter what you're buying. How much should it cost, where can you find the best deals, and is there a more affordable way to get it?
Many people jump right to the cheapest copier they can find. They think it might match their needs, but their decision is purely price driven. Sometimes they luck out and get the right model with good build quality. Years from now, they're calling the copier "old reliable" and patting themselves on the back for their money-saving move.
However, this is not the case for most people.
It is absolutely vital that records are readily accessible to ensure that your patients receive the best care possible. This means that every organization, from the largest hospital to one-person general practitioner practices, needs to be able to obtain patient records. Every individual involved in a patient's care, from doctors to nurses, need to be able to view a patient's medical history.
While access is key, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economical and Clinical Health) Act have established strict standards for ensuring the security of those records. A balance must be struck between access and security.
When seeking to find that balance, paper records can hold you back and make compliance more difficult. Paper records are difficult to share and not inherently secure, since documents can be lost, misplaced, or stolen.
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The federal government requires all organizations and individuals who handle patient health information to be HIPAA compliant. Office managers must work to ensure that all confidential patient information is only viewed by authorized personnel and is protected against theft.
The HIPAA rules that apply to medical offices take up 115 pages. It is absolutely vital that you read through all the rules to ensure that you are in compliance. In 2013, HIPAA policy changed. After reading through those changes, Medical Economics identified seven potential violations that could leave your office open to fines that range from $100 to $50,000. Here are those seven issues and how to ensure you are HIPAA compliant.
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Every modern office has a copier, and if it's a doctor's office, it must be HIPAA compliant. While multifunction copiers can be HIPAA compliant, none of them are compliant out of the box.
There are a few unscrupulous dealers that will say that their copiers are HIPAA compliant out of the box, hoping to capitalize on doctors and hospitals that want to get compliant as fast as possible by making a simple purchase.
HIPAA is not defined by technology, but by the policies and procedures that secures a patient's protected health information (PHI). To comply with HIPAA, you must ensure PHI confidentiality, integrity, and availability. This means that the data is only available and alterable by authorized persons or processes.
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Do you feel you're not getting the most out of your technology spending? Or that your legal IT departments are not helping you meet your business goals?
First, rethink your strategy, and your mindset.
When it comes to technology, there are a few key things that firms in the legal industry do in order to improve their business processes:
- Be smart. Select only technology that supports your business objectives.
- Your IT infrastructure must retain its critical pieces: copiers and print output.
- Hire professionals to manage your IT so you can focus on work that brings your firm revenue: practicing law, acquiring new clients, and retaining current ones.
- Remove distractions. Don't try to handle copier repairs in-house, as this only slows down your work.
Here's an overview of how law firms are spending on IT, from the InsideLegal/ILTA Technology Purchasing Survey (click here to read the complete survey).
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