Small businesses face increasing challenges when trying to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations. HIPAA regulations set forth strict standards to protect patient information from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. These regulations apply not only to healthcare providers and insurers but also to any entity that comes in contact with protected health information (PHI). This includes many small businesses who might not even imagine that they could be impacted: CPAs, schools serving special-needs children, website developers, and so on.
Non-compliance with HIPAA regulations can, of course, lead to hefty fines and penalties that can be financially devastating for small businesses. What is not well recognized is the loss of customer trust and reputation. Which small business owner wants to see his or her firm featured in the local newspaper as being on the receiving end of a giant fine from the Department of Health and Human Services? (Many SMBs do not realize that HHS maintains a list of breaches popularly known as the "HIPAA Wall of Shame"
HIPAA compliance is not terribly complicated, but it does involve some work. In general, the SMB must implement - or at least work towards - policies, procedures, and technical safeguards to ensure the confidentiality of PHI. (There are additional items related to the availability and integrity of PHI, but most medical SMBs will get that message loud and clear the first time they lose a patient record!) Compliance requirements generally include such basic steps as risk assessments ("Did you buy your firewall from Best Buy, or is it enterprise-class?"), developing policies, procedures, and access controls ("Is everything protected by a strong password?"), training employees ("When someone on the phone solicits patient info, do you ask for some ID?"), and conducting regular audits.
The task of ensuring HIPAA compliance can be overwhelming for an SMB that chooses to do it alone. Most SMBs are not qualified to figure out where their data resides, let alone how to protect it. However, engaging the services of a qualified MSP can make things a lot simpler. An MSP can not only help small businesses identify potential risks and vulnerabilities, but also develop a plan to mitigate them. They can also provide IT infrastructure monitoring and offer a managed services dashboard, such as an MSP customer infrastructure dashboard, to monitor compliance and ensure the protection of PHI.
This will not only ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations but also provide added security for the SMB in general. Further, MSPs can weigh the various technical choices against their costs, and advise the SMB on the best tradeoff between risk and overhead.
The MSP will also advise the SMB on the appropriate network and security equipment to protect PHI. This includes using the proper level of firewalls, intrusion detection systems, authentication servers, and other security measures to prevent unauthorized access to PHI. The HIPAA technical requirements specifically mandate information security ("PHI must be protected at rest and in-flight"), and the MSP can recommend straightforward encryption software that can accomplish this easily.
In conclusion, HIPAA compliance is crucial for small businesses, and failing to comply can result in fines, loss of customer trust, poor business reputation, and loss of revenue. However, compliance is not the terrifying mountain it may seem and can be greatly simplified by engaging an MSP and using appropriate network and security applications and equipment. With the appropriate assistance, training, and support, SMBs can ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations and provide added security for their business and their customers. It's not just the law - it's a good idea!
Uplevel Systems, as a small business IT infrastructure managed service provider, enables any of these options. Uplevel’s subscription offering is the most popular with SMBs, but some prefer Uplevel’s new equipment purchase program and use a CapEx model.