Getting 'Hip' with HIPAA Compliance in Remote Healthcare Work

By Lindsey Neal

Few industries have avoided the significant shift towards remote work, and healthcare is no exception. With 37% of U.S. adults having used a telemedicine provider and approximately 2.7 million healthcare professionals working remotely (the highest out of any industry in the U.S.), concerns about patient confidentiality and compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have taken on new urgency in the healthcare space. In this blog, we'll explore these concerns and discuss how healthcare organizations can address them. 

HIPAA is a federal law that requires healthcare organizations to protect the privacy and security of patients' health information. It sets forth stringent standards that organizations must follow to ensure that patient data is kept confidential and secure. These standards apply to all healthcare providers, including those who work remotely. 

One of the primary concerns with back-office medical professionals working remotely is the risk of data breaches. Remote work involves accessing patient data outside of a secure office environment, which could increase the risk of data breaches and other security incidents. Medical professionals who work remotely must follow the same HIPAA rules as they would in a traditional office setting. They must ensure that they are accessing patient data securely and that they are taking the necessary precautions to protect that data from unauthorized access or disclosure. 

Healthcare organizations can mitigate these risks by implementing strict remote work policies that emphasize HIPAA compliance. These policies should include guidelines for accessing and storing patient data remotely, using secure communication tools and disposing of confidential documents and materials properly. Additionally, healthcare organizations can provide training and education to medical professionals on best practices for data privacy and security, and implement regular audits and assessments to ensure that medical professionals are following these policies and practices. 

Another concern with back-office medical professionals working remotely is the potential for privacy breaches. Medical professionals may accidentally or inadvertently expose patient data to unauthorized individuals, such as family members or roommates. They may also use unsecured Wi-Fi networks or personal devices to access patient data, which could compromise the privacy of that data. 

To address these concerns, healthcare organizations can implement security measures such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that medical professionals are accessing patient data securely. Additionally, healthcare organizations can provide medical professionals with access to collaborative communication tools to enable effective communication and collaboration with other members of the care team, in addition to other secure communication tools such as encrypted email and messaging platforms. Additionally, healthcare organizations can require medical professionals to use company-provided devices and prohibit the use of personal devices for work purposes. 

For added assurance, healthcare organizations can leverage remote office inspection software to assess the security of employees’ remote workspaces and adherence to data privacy and security protocols related to employees’ physical work environment. 

Maintaining patient confidentiality is critical for healthcare organizations, and remote work can make it challenging to ensure that patient data is being protected. However, with the right policies, procedures, and technologies in place, healthcare organizations can enable back-office medical professionals to work remotely while still ensuring HIPAA compliance and protecting patient confidentiality.