Healthcare organizations and professionals are in the business of providing vital health care to patients, and they deal with sensitive information every day. While healthcare professionals are experts in their industry and brilliant people, they are not expected to be Information Technology and Compliance experts.
At Bit-Wizards, we have many discussions with Healthcare providers of different kinds, and the one common thread of those conversations: Managing IT and HIPAA Compliance is complicated. For medical professionals, tackling these complex requirements in-house can require a full-time position. Even then, it is challenging to be sure that you are following all of the HIPAA guidelines. Some medical offices hire a Managed IT Service (or Managed Service Provider) to take care of their IT, but that still could leave vulnerabilities in your HIPAA Compliance if you fail to do research on the different types of IT providers and what they offer.
Below are a few tips that your medical office can use when you plan to talk to an IT provider about your HIPAA Compliance needs.
Types of IT Providers
Not all IT providers are the same; there are two main types, and they have very different business models:
Break-Fix IT Providers
Break-Fix IT is a 'hired gun' type of IT support, and they do precisely what the name says; if it breaks, they fix it. There is no active monitoring, continuous security features, or compliance built into this service. Break-Fix IT is an older and reactive model of managing business technology.
Managed IT Service Providers
Managed IT Services is a professional IT services company that provides active network and workstation monitoring, active security measures, help-desk services, comprehensive back-up solutions, and network and workstation updates. Many times excellent managed IT service providers will fix issues before you are even aware they exist.
Managed IT Service Providers are Not Equal
Not all Managed IT Services providers offer the same type of services. There are some key features that a Managed IT Service Provider needs to offer before you trust them with your HIPAA compliance needs.
Below are some questions you can ask a potential managed IT service provider before hiring them. You can also use these questions when discussing options with your current IT service provider.
Questions for Managed IT Service Providers
Do they perform background checks on all their employees?
Do they maintain security compliance with an outside agency, such as SOC Compliance?
Do they use enterprise-grade network equipment and software?
Do they use archiving processes for documents and emails?
Do they have comprehensive business continuity plans for their clients and themselves?
Do they use Advanced Threat Protection services for email security? (This should be a fundamental element of their service offering.)
What are their IT response times, capacity, and Service Level Agreements (SLA)?
Do they offer semi-annual reports that can be ready at a moment's notice to attend to you during a HIPAA audit?
There is an abundance of IT Providers masquerading as Managed IT Service Providers, so it is essential to your business' security to do some research. It is worthwhile to invest in Managed IT Services to ensure HIPAA Compliance.
Isn't EHR/EMR Software Enough for Compliance?
Your Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Software should always be HIPAA compliant. However, an EMR only protects the data that you enter and store within the software. If your network is unprotected or your workstations are not password-protected, you remain vulnerable to an information breach. Partnering with an authentic Managed IT Service Provider will protect you everywhere that your EHR/EMR does not. Including training employees on IT security best practices.
What Does Managed IT Services Usually Cost?
You can expect to pay about $120-$250 per user, per month, for a compliant and comprehensive Managed IT Service Provider. This cost usually includes all the needed productivity software, workstation & file/folder back-ups, and help desk support, to name a few.
That might sound like a lot of money to spend on IT. But remember, the potential fine of a single healthcare data security breach can range between $100 to $50,000 per violation (or per record).
HIPAA Compliance is Serious
In conclusion, you must take your HIPAA Compliance seriously and partner with an IT provider who understands the details of HIPAA. Investing in your IT now will help you avoid large fines or data breaches in the future, ensuring your medical practice's long-term success.