A Necessary Partnership: HIPAA Compliance and Business Associate Agreements

Published in Member Communities on May 21, 2019

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Your organization is likely always thinking of better ways to protect patients’ private information throughout the course of business. In order to do this best, it’s important that you establish a secure partnership with another organization in order to tighten security on patient data. If this seems like a foreign language to you and you don’t know where to start, we are here to help. Here’s everything you should know about this essential partnership.

What is a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement?

Let’s start with a brief definition of a business associate. A business associate is any organization or entity that you do business with where they handle your protected health information (PHI). Because you allow them to handle and accept the information, it creates potential HIPAA violations. The business associates are often subcontractors that are hired to maintain or transmit PHI. They could be a large organization or even a lawyer.

A business associate agreement (BAA) is a binding, legal document that holds both parties liable to any wrongful dissemination of patient data according to HIPAA. The agreement states that the business associate will protect the information or be liable to the information breach. The agreement or document should state the use and explain the cybersecurity precautions that will be taken to protect the data should there be a breach.  They should also agree to not knowingly share the data with anyone. If you want to know where you currently stand on issues of security, let us assess your organization’s risk and compliance.

Does my organization need this?

Before giving anyone outside of your organization access to patient data, it is imperative that you have a contract binding them to liability with a BAA. They will be held to the same standard as you when it comes to HIPAA regulations. Some examples of businesses you work with that should sign a BAA are: medical billing companies, shredders and technology providers.

According to the March 2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report from the HIPAA Journal Newsletter, there was roughly one healthcare data breach per day, which resulted in the private information of 912,992 individuals being exposed. It is in your organization’s best interest to have a BAA, as it creates a level of mutual liability and protection. When your partner knows that they will be held to HIPAA standards, they will be just as vigilant to protecting the data due to the level of accountability expected from them.

It’s important to cover all your bases to protect yourself and your patients with a competent partnership. Get Breach Protection now with VGM Technologies.

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