Doctors are busy people. They don’t have time to do paperwork, calls, and follow-ups that their profession entails. It’s where a business associate comes in.
A business associate (BA) is an organization or person who uses Protected Health Information (PHI) in some form. They provide specialized services to a healthcare company or covered entity (CE). Software providers, CRM vendors, accounting firms, or a consultant are examples of business associates.
Being a business associate in a healthcare organization is both rewarding and challenging. There’s a lot of room for growth here. The industry will grow by as much as 15% in the next decade.
However, working with organizations that handle protected health information will require more from the company. The whole organization should undergo HIPAA training for business associates. It will ensure that your firm complies with the requirements of the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
This checklist will help you get started on what to do.
Know the Risk
The healthcare and wellness industry needs business associates badly. Whether it’s to provide the software or offer specific services, business associates help manage the workload. They ensure that everything runs smoothly so medical personnel can focus on their patients.
However, business associates are also the number one cause of some major security breaches in healthcare. Cybercriminals admittedly have it in for the healthcare industry. It’s why most focus on finding weaknesses in the systems of the business associates.
Working in the healthcare industry will automatically put your company at risk. Your best option to protect yourself is to understand the risks and pay attention to what you need to do. A HIPAA training for business associates will help with that moving forward.
Do a Risk Assessment at Your End
You can’t develop new HIPAA compliance policies for your workers to follow if you don’t know your weaknesses.
Conducting risk assessment will identify which parts of your organization’s protected health information will be vulnerable. It’s a long and complicated process. The evaluation demands accuracy and a keen understanding of how your company works.
HIPAA risk assessments are also never-ending since you’ll be updating and documenting your security measures as needed, and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issues periodic guidance documents.
HIPAA law also has a lot of room for interpretation, which means you’ll be conducting a lot of research.
You have two options open to you on this front. You can do the risk assessment internally or externally. The former gives you the advantage of learning what the Department of Health and Human Services considers critical. The latter gives you an unbiased look at your vulnerabilities. It could lead to better policies.
Conduct Training and Execute Policies
Becoming a business associate will change the way your company runs on a fundamental level. You’ll be developing and implementing new policies. This will have a big impact on your employees, their work areas, and even how they access and use social media while at work.
Business associates of healthcare organizations have to meet the requirements laid out by the HIPAA. You can’t assign one department or a set of employees on compliance. It has to be followed by all the workers. Even guests to your office have to follow specific policies to ensure compliance.
As with any new policies or company changes, your workforce will require training. You can design your training program that fits your company’s culture. You can also look to an outside vendor to conduct HIPAA training for business associates.
Verify the Need for a Business Associate Agreement
The HIPAA Act is one of the most extensive and challenging pieces of legislation ever drafted. The sheer magnitude of information can easily confuse healthcare providers and business associates on what is required and what’s not.
The Business Associate Agreement (BAA) is one element that confuses. The BAA is a contract that details a vendor’s liability. However, not every company that provides a service needs to sign this contract.
The HIPAA states that you’re not a business associate if your company doesn’t provide services that “create, receive, maintain, or transmit PHI.” In this case, you don’t need to sign a BAA to work with a healthcare organization.
If you are a business associate and need to sign the agreement, know that you have a lot of room to negotiate concerns regarding audit rights, indemnity, and reporting.
Working with healthcare organizations can be a big step up for your company. But you have to be willing to make the needed changes to make your company HIPAA compliant.