How to Choose a HIPAA Compliance Audit Company
HIPAA Knowledge Hub
Compliance software can streamline your HIPAA efforts, but what if you still need the help of a hands-on audit company?
When it comes to HIPAA compliance requirements, there are a lot of audit company options. The challenge is to figure out which service provider is the best for your needs.
How do you find the best audit partner? It depends on your needs. There is no standard provider guidance for HIPAA compliance currently, and HHS doesn’t offer recommendations in this regard.
We say the most obvious first step is to comparison shop. Before you begin, let’s make sure you understand HIPAA compliance so that you have the right criteria to gauge audit services. Keep reading or skip to the section of your choice.
How HIPAA Compliance Works
Many organizations face the same challenges with achieving HIPAA compliance. The requirements only provide guidance on a high level. Since the guidelines do not contain specific tactics on how to achieve compliance with HIPAA regulations, much is left to interpretation.
Make a visit to the HHS site, and you’ll see they clearly state that there’s no standard implementation of HIPAA specifications. Nor does the HHS define which data you should gather or how you should review that data.
That’s why it’s important to choose the right HIPAA compliance audit company. You will have to determine the protocols that your specific company needs to achieve compliance. Finding a partner with skills and experience in HIPAA compliance audits to assist in those determinations is key. More than price or speed, you want dependability. And ultimately, you want your organization’s data and security to remain safe. You can learn more about navigating the world of HIPAA with the rest of our HIPAA Knowledge Hub series of articles:
Getting a Jump on HIPAA Compliance
It may surprise you, but one of the best places to start figuring out your own HIPAA compliance needs is by looking at past incidents, breaches or violations. Past incidents can provide you with critical and detailed information as to how to move forward with HIPAA compliance in a certain area.
These unfortunate occurrences can help you figure out how to implement effective HIPAA audit controls. In other words, you can learn from your own mistakes and those of others.
The key takeaway is to understand that HIPAA compliance isn’t a one-time action. You’ll need to perform ongoing risk assessments to resolve or mitigate any new, emerging issues. Risk assessments and how they are conducted is one point you’ll want to evaluate when choosing an auditing partner.
Another item on the list? An audit log. You’ll want to create an audit log to detail your ongoing reviews of your HIPAA-related policies and procedures.
The following steps can set you up for HIPAA compliance success.
The word “audit” has earned a dubious rap, causing anxiety in workplaces across the land. However, most audits serve as a preventative measure. It alerts the organization to areas that need attention before a threat becomes something much more.
In regard to HIPAA compliance, a random audit by an outside auditor is highly unlikely. Realistically, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) does not have the staff to target healthcare providers in this way. In reality, an OCR audit typically takes place after some type of violation or breach event.
For instance, let’s say a security breach occurs or someone reports a violation. These kinds of incidents trigger OCR HIPAA audits.
In most cases, however, the trigger incident isn’t the biggest issue faced by organizations that violate HIPAA regulations. Often, HIPAA fines usually have little to do with what triggered an event. You need to find the root cause and remedy it as quickly and completely as possible.
While you want to avoid an OCR audit at all costs (because it occurs as the result of a breach and the fines can be quite expensive), at the same time, you want your organization to be audit-ready, always in a state of preparedness for an OCR audit.
There are various types of OCR audits, but we’re focused here on the HIPAA audit, a deep dive into your organization’s compliance with all HIPAA regulations.
You’ll need to bring together key people within your organization to accomplish the task of becoming audit-ready. Early on, we recommend seeking guidance from the Office of the National Coordinator’s Guide to Privacy and Security.
As a decision-maker, you want to know that your organization can stand up to OCR scrutiny at all times. To achieve that, there are a few things that you can do to keep your organization in a state of readiness.
Firstly, you’ll want to designate a security officer for your organization. This individual will lead ongoing security risk analyses. He or she will also help to develop a risk management plan for your organization.
Your security officer will analyze your relationship with third-party vendors and business associates. An oversight by a supplier or partner can prove just as detrimental as an internal oversight. Finally, your security officer will ensure that employees receive routine HIPAA training.
Some organizations struggle to launch their HIPAA compliance initiatives because it’s difficult to know where to begin and how to proceed. Hiring a security and compliance expert gets them on the right track.
You and your security officer will likely determine the need and selection of a compliance/audit platform to help organize and manage compliance activities. Organizations new to official compliance procedures may balk at this added operational expense.
The fact is that HIPAA compliance is mandatory for healthcare organizations. Today, practitioners should consider it a cost of doing business, like paying utility bills or service providers. This also means choosing the right compliance partner with the right expertise is critical to a successful and efficient compliance program.
The right HIPAA compliance partner will provide you with the technology to meet your needs. The best resource will help you to gain structure, integrity and insights from your internal audit. It should also help you streamline your risk and compliance initiatives the way Onspring does.
Risk, audit and compliance go hand in hand. That’s why business automation companies offer governance, risk and compliance solution packages in their platforms.
Identifying risk is one of the most important roles of an internal audit. And the right tool should help you do that internally and on your own.
But identification is just the first step for managing risk. You must monitor your risks and report on the status of those risks until they’re remedied. That entire process—identification, evaluation, mitigation, monitoring, resolution and reporting—is what the right SaaS technology should offer you.
And relating those risks to HIPAA regulations and controls while reporting in real time on your compliance is just one of the ways Onspring delivers big.
With growing reliance on digital transmission and telemedicine, the need to comply with HIPAA regulations grows more urgent.
Many organizations find themselves scrambling come audit time, and eventually, these providers figure out that they need expert assistance and tools to get up to speed.
Choosing a HIPAA Compliance Partner
There are a few questions you should ask when searching for a HIPAA compliance audit company:
- Can they provide third-party HIPAA compliance verification? You want to reduce your exposure to risk. Credible third-party compliance verification will afford your organization this kind of protection.
- Do they stand behind their work? Accordingly, you’ll want to choose a partner that will help should you ever face an OCR audit.
- Can they offer continuous monitoring services? This kind of system can help you proactively identify potential security risks, specifically cybersecurity risks. If you need help with analysis of this kind of data, be sure to ask if their support team can help create dashboards and visualizations to help communicate key takeaways.
When to Tap the Potential of Compliance Technology
With more regulations and standards being applied to the way businesses operate each year, those working to provide accurate risk assessments and current audit reports may not be able to deliver what their teams truly need by way of manual spreadsheets.
We hear the frustrations from potential customers regularly. You may lack an integrated & automated system for documenting and tracking issues. You may be stuck with a legacy system that’s simply unreliable. You may have a small staff that is expected to deliver that of a team three or four times its size.
We feel your pain. And we believe Onspring is the best HIPAA compliance software on the market. Once you have a tool like our Governance, Risk & Compliance suite, you can quickly take control of your data and begin delivering powerful value to your organization.
Here are a few clues that you may need better compliance or audit software than your current system. When you need a platform to help provide:
- a centralized data clearinghouse
- assignment to owners for each critical audit component
- identification and criticality of HIPAA compliance risks
- role-based dashboards for tracking progress throughout the audit cycle
The Onspring platform can do all of this and so much more. Ultimately, Onspring empowers you to efficiently and effectively manage end-to-end risk, audit and compliance data.
See for yourself — schedule a personalized demo.