How can I stay HIPAA compliant and go paperless?

One common question that healthcare providers and others who are bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) ask is this: How can I stay HIPAA-compliant while using a paperless system to manage healthcare records?

This is a valid question. Especially for smaller medical clinics and individual healthcare practitioners, the requirements involved in keeping up with HIPAA can be daunting. Although there is a lot of information available, as well as assistance for medical companies dealing with patient electronic health records (EHR), making sense out of it all can still be a challenge.

At eFileCabinet, we deal with these issues every day as we help customers of ours who are in the medical industry create efficient and compliant environments to manage their patient records. HIPAA applies not only to what you would typically consider to be traditional medical practices, such as doctors, surgeons, hospital employees, and the like. The law also extends to human resources departments, temporary work agencies, and others who, through the performance of their employee management duties, handle health-related information.


Essential Features of a HIPAA-Compliant Paperless Document Management System

Many document management systems provide organizational and indexing capabilities, but leave the tools for compliance out of their systems. When searching for a DMS that will make compliance easier there are a few things to look for:

  • A Secure Database: Encryption of the documents stored by your medical practice is a necessity. Without a built-in data encryption mechanism, your office will need to employ additional technology services to encrypt your server. Some document management software (DMS) requires external encryption protocols to maintain security. A good DMS will have built-in encryption, preferably no lower than 128-bit with some as high as 256-bit encryption. These DMS products will not allow for ‘back door’ review of documents and will require that each individual user sign into the software with individual logins and passwords.
  • Backup of the database protects documents from loss in the case of system and server failure. Further, HIPAA requires that a backup of electronic records be maintained at a separate physical location. Strong DMS providers will provide a backup solution as part of an overall document management package.
  • Client Portal: Much safer than email, a client portal allows for secure sharing of documents with patients and insurance companies through a Cloud solution. The patients log in to the portal with an individual username and password.
  • Automated Retention is a must for compliance. Depending on the specific industry verticals and the nature of the documents being stored, various policies must be observed. HIPPA requires that active employee records be maintained the duration of the employees employment and for 7 years after an employee’s termination. The Automated Retention features makes this feasible by preventing documents from being accidentally deleted during employment and automatically tracking the 7 years after the employee folders are marked as terminated. Medical providers are required to maintain records in accordance with state and company procedures. HIPAA does not mandate specific timelines for health records, but does require that retention is universal across the organization.
  • Role-Based Security: Employee records should only be accessible by HR personnel. In addition, accounting and payroll functions records should not be accessed by general employees. The ability to lock down the documents to users based on job function and individual need-to-know basis is critical to ensuring that private information remain private, even from a rogue employee.
  • Audit Trails allow for tracking of every action taken in the filing cabinet and should only be available to top level administrators. This allows for overview and control of the documents and random verification that employees are utilizing the cabinet according to internal policy. Audit trails should be undeletable and unalterable.

Fortunately, one solution continues to offer these needed tools in a complete package. eFileCabinet Professional Package includes all of the above tools to maintain compliance at an affordable price. Encryption is set at 256-bit encryption and the automated backup maintains a minimum of 3 backups in 3 separate locations across the United States.

If you’d like to have us demonstrate how our document management solution can be implemented with your business or practice in a way that keeps you compliant with HIPAA requirements, please contact us or fill out the form here to have us contact you to set up a demo.