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Compliance Perspectives: Using Document Management Systems to Avoid HIPAA Pitfalls

By Andreas Rivera bio
Record-keeping can be one of the most stressful aspects of running a healthcare business since privacy compliance is scrutinized in healthcare more than any other industry.
Anyone with experience in the healthcare industry knows that violating HIPAA comes with steep penalties…

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By Andreas Rivera bio

One of the most challenging aspects of HIPAA compliance is ensuring that your methods of storing lab records containing protected health information (PHI) meet all of the law’s privacy and security requirements. Regrettably, most HIPAA violations occur inadvertently without the lab’s even realizing it. Here are five of the most common HIPAA violations to look out for:

  1. Insufficient Access Control

Technological, physical and administrative measures need to be in place to ensure that access to records containing ePHI is limited to authorized lab employees for authorized purposes.

  1. Not Removing Former Employees’ Access

You need to ensure that employee with access to ePHI are barred from access as soon as their employment ends.

  1. Lack of Encryption

Not using encryption or an equivalent solution for protecting electronic health records is a recipe for trouble.

  1. Personal Email

Don’t let employees use personal email accounts to store, use or transmit PHI.

  1. PHI on Personal Devices

Similarly, be alert to the risk of employees’ downloading PHI to their personal or other unauthorized electronic devices.
Overcoming the Challenge

For larger labs, a full-time HIPAA compliance officer is highly advisable. However, if you’re a smaller lab with limited resources, you may have to rely on a tech solution. Digital solutions such as a shared network drive can be easier to handle, but hardly feature the security and privacy tools required by HIPAA. Lackluster cybersecurity is easy prey for hackers targeting you for ransomware. Document management software can be a lightweight solution for organizing medical records in a HIPAA-compliant manner.

The 3 Key Document Management System Features You Need

Make sure that any document management system solution you use includes three essential features and capabilities: 

  1. Customizable Security

Create security policies and apply them to different users and user groups. You can set password complexity requirements and even enable multi-factor authentication options.

  1. Role-Based Permissions

You can create permission settings that can easily be attached to individual users as well as entire groups of users. Only authorized users should be able to access protected health records, while other users shouldn’t even be able to see them in the system.

  1. Audit Trail & Versioning

The system should be able to log everything that happens to a file, including when it was accessed, by which user account, and if it was changed. You can even revisit older versions of the document to see what exactly was changed.