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Maintain HIPAA and HITECH Compliance with Concentric AI

July 5, 2023
Cyrus Tehrani
5 min read

As the healthcare industry continues to make strides in digital transformation, healthcare data is increasingly digital while electronic health records (EHRs) are more widely adopted. More than ever before, protecting sensitive patient information is a top priority for healthcare organizations.

Not only is this crucial for maintaining patient trust, but it’s also a legal requirement under laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Established in 1996, HIPAA emerged as a pivotal regulatory response to this shift in the United States. HIPAA sets the benchmark for the safeguarding of sensitive patient data. It requires any organization that handles protected health information (PHI) to have robust security measures in place. These measures span across physical security controls, network security mechanisms, and procedural safeguards to ensure a comprehensive protection strategy.

Key Principles of HIPAA and Who They Apply To

HIPAA is based on several fundamental principles designed to protect the privacy and security of PHI.

The key principles of HIPAA are:

Privacy Rule: This rule protects individuals’ medical records and other personal health information by limiting the use and disclosure of that data. The goal is to ensure a patient’s rights to their information, and setting boundaries on the release of health records.

Security Rule: This rule establishes a framework for securing electronic protected health information (e-PHI). It requires healthcare organizations implement a combination of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards. The goal is to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and security of e-PHI, thereby protecting patient data from unauthorized access or breaches.

Breach Notification Rule: In the unfortunate event of a breach involving unsecured PHI, this rule stipulates that covered entities and their business associates must provide timely notification. This transparency is key to maintaining trust and allows affected parties to take necessary steps to protect their information.

Enforcement Rule: This rule ensures adherence to HIPAA and outlines the procedures related to compliance investigations and any civil monetary penalties for HIPAA violations. It serves as a strong deterrent against non-compliance, reinforcing the importance of protecting sensitive health information.

HIPAA’s reach extends to covered entities and their business associates. Covered entities are typically health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and healthcare providers who transmit health information in an electronic form. Business associates, on the other hand, are individuals or entities that perform functions or activities involving the use or disclosure of PHI on behalf of, or providing services to, a covered entity. This broad scope ensures that all parties involved in handling PHI uphold the same high standards of data protection.

Individual Rights Under HIPAA

HIPAA provides individuals with several rights regarding their health information, including:

Right to Access: Individuals have the right to review or receive copies of their health information.

Right to Amend: If individuals feel that the information in their records is incorrect or incomplete, they have the right to request amendments.

Right to Disclosure Accounting: Individuals have the right to receive a report on when, why, and to whom their health information was shared.

Right to Request Restrictions: Individuals have the right to request restrictions on certain uses and disclosures of their health information.

Right to Request Confidential Communications: Individuals have the right to request that they receive communications of PHI from their healthcare provider in a certain way or at a certain location.

How Concentric AI Helps Organizations Maintain HIPAA Compliance

With Concentric AI, there are three key steps to ensure your organizations is compliant with HIPAA:

Discover and Identify PHI: The first step towards HIPAA compliance is knowing where all instances of PHI reside within your organization. Concentric’s Semantic Intelligence solution uses advanced machine learning and AI to autonomously scan and categorize PHI, wherever it is stored. This includes structured and unstructured data repositories, email/messaging applications, cloud or on-premises storage – all with semantic context. It identifies that data, learns how it’s used, and determines whether it’s at risk. This comprehensive discovery and identification process is crucial in helping a healthcare organization achieve HIPAA compliance.

Monitor and Classify PHI for Risk: Once PHI has been identified, it’s essential to monitor how this sensitive data is being used, who it is being shared with, and who has accessed it. This continuous monitoring process can help to quickly and accurately pinpoint risk from inappropriate permissioning, risky sharing, and unauthorized access. Concentric allows you to accomplish this autonomously, reducing the burden on IT and security teams. Plus, our solution classifies data according to its level of sensitivity and importance, enabling healthcare organizations to apply appropriate data protection measures and implement data retention policies.

Remediate Data Risk Issues: The final step is to address any data risk issues that arise. Concentric’s Risk Distance™ analysis leverages deep learning to compare each data element with baseline security practices used by similar data to identify risk without rules and policies. But more importantly, our solution can remediate these access risks as they happen – whether it’s fixing access control issues or permissions, disabling sensitive file sharing with a third party, or blocking an attachment on a messaging service. This proactive approach to risk remediation helps to ensure that your healthcare organization remain compliant with HIPAA’s stringent requirements.

Best of all, Concentric helps you discover and protect your most sensitive and confidential information without any rules, upfront work or security team overhead.

Leveraging deep learning and AI, Concentric Semantic Intelligence™ autonomously delivers a content-based, categorized view of your data and a risk rating for all data that have been exposed. This allows your data security, privacy, and compliance teams to easily find and correct inappropriate sharing, unauthorized access or wrong entitlements of sensitive data to efficiently prevent data loss.

How Concentric AI Helps Organizations Maintain HITECH Compliance

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) was passed. Its goal is to encourage the use of health information technology and ensure that privacy and security protections under HIPAA are more comprehensive.

HITECH introduced significant changes to the enforcement of HIPAA compliance, including increased penalties for non-compliance.

With Concentric AI, organizations can ensure they are compliant with HITECH through the following steps:

Discover and Identify e-PHI: Like HIPAA, the first step towards HITECH compliance is identifying where all instances of electronic protected health information (e-PHI) reside within your organization. Concentric’s Semantic Intelligence solution autonomously scans and categorizes e-PHI, providing a clear and comprehensive view of where this sensitive data is stored and how it’s being used.

Monitor and Classify e-PHI for Risk: Concentric allows you to continuously monitor how e-PHI is being used, who it is being shared with, and who has accessed it. This continuous monitoring helps to quickly and accurately pinpoint risk from inappropriate permissioning, risky sharing, and unauthorized access.

Audit Controls: HITECH requires that healthcare organizations implement hardware, software, and procedural mechanisms to record and examine access and other activity in systems that contain or use e-PHI. Concentric’s solution provides robust audit controls, recording all interactions with e-PHI and offers detailed reports that can be used to demonstrate compliance during an audit.

By leveraging Concentric’s solution, your healthcare organization can navigate the complexities of HITECH compliance, ensuring your sensitive patient data is protected and penalties associated with non-compliance are avoided.

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