Law firms have a unique set of legal and ethical obligations when it comes to HIPAA compliance. As such, they must consider the implications of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in order to protect their clients’ personal health information (PHI). Here are seven important things that law firms need to know about HIPAA Compliance:
1. Protect Personal Information
Law firms have an obligation to protect all PHI that they receive, store and transmit. This includes any information collected in client meetings or otherwise obtained by the law firm during legal representation of a client. It is important for law firms to understand and comply with appropriate HIPAA Security Rule requirements when handling PHI, such as encryption and access controls.
2. Implement Policies and Procedures
Law firms should develop policies, procedures and processes for handling PHI in compliance with HIPAA to ensure that all staff members are aware of their obligations under the law and can fulfill them effectively. This includes guidelines on how to create, maintain and store PHI securely.
3. Train Staff
It is essential that law firms train their staff to understand the importance of protecting PHI and how they should do it correctly. This training should occur regularly, particularly when new staff join or existing employees are assigned to work with PHI.
4. Monitor Compliance
Law firms should monitor the compliance of all staff members to ensure that all PHI is handled in accordance with HIPAA regulations. This includes regularly reviewing the policies and procedures and conducting regular audits of staff’s interactions with PHI.
5. Implement Appropriate Encryption
Law firms should use appropriate encryption technologies to protect all PHI stored or transmitted electronically. This can help prevent unauthorized access or disclosure of PHI.
6. Understand Business Associate Agreements
Law firms must understand the purpose and requirements of business associate agreements (BAAs) when engaging a third-party to handle PHI on their behalf. A BAA is an agreement between two parties, in which one party agrees to provide services that involve access or use of PHI belonging to the other party.
7. Report Any Breaches
Law firms must report any unauthorized access or disclosure of PHI to the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights within 60 days. Law firms should also notify affected individuals about any breach, as well as their clients’ health plan sponsors if required to do so under HIPAA rules.
By understanding these seven important aspects of HIPAA compliance, law firms can ensure that they are taking the necessary steps to protect their clients’ PHI and remain compliant with HIPAA regulations. Taking the time to understand and comply with HIPAA is an essential part of any successful law firm practice.