According to federal law, organizations must designate HIPAA Privacy and HIPAA Security Officer. This requirement stemmed from the need to enforce better security practices to protect patients’ health information as healthcare providers were failing to do so in the past. Hence, the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules were designed. According to the rules, organizations are required to appoint one or more privacy and security officer(s) responsible for managing the organization’s compliance program. A formal policy to designate and recognize such individuals must also be in place.
Primary responsibilities of HIPAA Privacy and Security Officers
Compliance officers should do the following. First, the officials must have a sound knowledge of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules to effectively manage company policies, procedures, and controls within the organization. Secondly, the officials can obtain certifications like CISA to grow their knowledge and accountability. Last but not least, the officers must provide role-based training to the members of the organization, whether it’s in-person or online.
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The provisions under HIPAA do not exactly specify the responsibilities of HIPAA Privacy and Security officers. Covered entities and business associates have the flexibility to establish their own policies and procedures according to their organizational needs.
Below are some of the common responsibilities of a HIPAA Privacy Officer:
- Identifying and evaluating threats to the confidentiality of PHI (Protected Health Information).
- Develop and implement training for all new and existing employees.
- Perform security audits of all technology and networks periodically to ensure that all safety practices are being followed and effective.
- Contact the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and all the relevant parties in the event of a breach and investigate the breach.
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Here are some common responsibilities of a HIPAA Security Officer:
- Identifying and evaluating threats to the confidentiality of electronic protected health information (ePHI).
- Creating, implementing, and enforcing policies and procedures that focus on administrative, physical, and technical safeguard requirements.
- Ensure that the policies and procedures implemented are sufficient to protect ePHI and develop policies to address gaps.
- Develop and conduct security training for the employees.
- Conduct annual HIPAA risk assessments to keep a check on the administrative, physical, and technical safeguards.
- Investigate incidents where ePHI may have been breached.
Who to appoint as a HIPAA Privacy and Security Officer?
The position can be delegated to a new full-time hire or an existing employee who knows the ins and outs of the organization and depending on the size of the organization and the time it will take to manage the compliance program. Sometimes, an individual can assume both the privacy and security officer’s role depending on the size of the organization.
Sometimes, the “IT Guy” would be designated as the HIPAA officer, but that is changing as organizations begin to understand the importance of a compliance officer. The duties and expectations of HIPAA Privacy Officer and Security Officer can greatly vary depending on the size of the organization and the amount of PHI it maintains, creates, or use. Also, the officers should be the go-to person to address privacy or security concerns that may arise.
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