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John Martinez

HIPAA Compliance Increases Patient Trust and Retention

October 6, 2022

Clinician, EHR, Information Technology, Security IT 6 Minute Read

With staffing shortages hitting every industry, businesses are moving as many processes and functions as possible to a digital format. The healthcare industry is no different. One way of increasing administrative efficiency is by implementing a HIPPA compliant electronic health record (EHR) system to store protected health information (PHI).  

While the benefits of using an EHR are clear–reduced physician time spent on administrative work, fewer human errors– the ECRI Institute found that patients are concerned about healthcare providers protecting their PHI. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) legally requires healthcare providers to safeguard PHI. Recent research has shown that it’s in the provider’s best interest to go above and beyond requirements in protecting PHI.  

Besides the obvious consequence of unintentional violations (think: substantial fines), compliance breaches erode patients’ trust and perceived quality of care. That loss of trust converts to profit loss, since it costs 90% less to retain current patients than it does to attract new ones.  

According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach report, healthcare accounted for 9 percent of all data breaches, which is third most out of 20 industries. To avoid data breaches, choosing a HIPAA-compliant EHR vendor is the first step in maintaining reliable security and patient trust. Providers must create their own processes and communicate them to patients to ensure the organization is complying with the law and keeping patient data safe. 

Adopting a HIPAA-Compliant Solution 

According to the law firm McGuireWoods, covered entities, such as providers with EHR systems, must have “administrative, physical, and technical safeguards that reasonably and appropriately protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the electronic PHI that it creates, receives, maintains, or transmits.” McGuireWoods details how to ensure your practice is going that extra mile to establish and maintain patient trust, as outlined below. 

Internal procedures enhance EHR security

While most EHR’s will have a data-centric security approach in which data controls and intelligence are built into the software, providers must continually assess their policies and procedures on the exchange of patient information through their EHR: 

1. Provider processes surrounding EHR:

  1. Identifying PHI and de-identified PHI uses and disclosures
  2. Creating a procedure for patients accessing their own records
  3. Creating a procedure for requests of information by the judicial system or other third-party entities
  4. Establishing the information that cannot be shared or segregated
  5. Creating a procedure for data that is withheld at the patient’s request

2. The EHR software:

  1. Addressing access controls and processes
  2. Providing unique usernames, enabling trackability and identity 
  3. Establishing safeguards to verify that a person is who they say they are 
  4. Analyzing threats to PHI regularly — consider the technology, scope, new trends, etc.  
  5. Auditing technological policies and procedures through software that analyzes and examines recorded activity
  6. Updating outdated technology, policies, and procedures
HIPAA Compliance, HIPAA Security, HIPAA, Patient Trust

Basic EHR best practices 

When initiating your EHR system, setting up the proper privacy and security protocols is essential. McGuireWoods recommends the following for all EHR users: 

  1. Notify the facility on adding or deleting other EHR users within 24 hours (i.e., employees gaining access or being terminated). 
  1. Inform the facility of any data requests in a timely manner. 
  1. To maintain the utmost data integrity, create and enforce safeguards within the EHR user’s office and notify the facility of breaches. 
  1. Observe HIPAA compliance requirements, including state and community laws involving PHI. 
  1. Comply with the facility’s EHR access and use operations. 

Determining who needs access to PHI within the EHR 

If your practice provides physicians access to PHI within your EHR, here are some points to consider: 

  1. The physician’s relationship with your facility 
  1. The circumstances and scope of information that the physician can access in the EHR 
  1. The information’s format: individually identifiable or aggregated 
  1. The reason for accessing the information and whether any additional information/documentation is needed — and if it falls within HIPAA compliance — if it’s for an extenuating circumstance, at which point you might need to: 
  1. Obtain patient authorization. 
  1. Document access controls. 
  1. Comply with patient rights provisions. 
  1. Disclose only a portion of PHI. 
  1. Comply with provisions if research or public health is involved. 
  1. Fulfill other business agreement requirements. 

While it may seem overwhelming and maybe even overkill to instill these measures, it’s undeniably worth your while. As previously mentioned, it’s easier and cheaper to maintain repeat customers versus attracting new ones. Additionally, a patient loyal to your practice will help boost your reputation and referrals, since electronic word of mouth has taken over traditional marketing strategies.  

Creating a Patient Engagement Strategy 

Once a provider has gone through the work of inputting these safeguards to protect patient data, don’t forget to inform your patients of the added security benefit of choosing your practice! While we wish the behind-the-scenes work in protecting PHI data was common knowledge, it most certainly is not.  

Work with your marketing team to incorporate messaging around your PHI and EHR security enhancements. Incorporating both traditional tactics like flyers and pamphlets in the waiting and patient rooms, and digital efforts such as email, video, blogs, and ad placements, will help increase patient awareness and trust in your practice to solve their health needs.  

Seamlessly Implement an EHR System within your Practice 

As one of the first companies providing EHR software, ChartLogic makes the process easy and secure. Our software works with your workflows, making the office work easy, manageable, and HIPAA compliant. Check out our case studies detailing similar examples, or schedule a demo with a solutions expert today! 

Schedule a Free Security Risk Assessment

In addition to offering HIPAA compliant software solutions, ChartLogic has a dedicated team of IT specialists that will evaluate your equipment, network, system performances, and security settings and compare them with industry best practices. This free IT Systems Assessment includes a HIPAA Security Risk Assessment Survey (Q&A with practice leader or HIPAA administrator) among many other things. To schedule your free IT Systems Assessment, click here!

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