There are few federal laws as meaningful or impactful to the healthcare industry as HIPAA. HIPAA — or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — is the governing federal law that protects patient privacy and data. The crux of the law is simple: Patient privacy is paramount and should be protected by any healthcare facility and provider.
For hospitals and other healthcare organizations, HIPAA adherence has real consequences. These medical facilities must protect patient data and confidentiality in all systems, including electronic data. Unfortunately, this is where things can get complicated for many facilities, as legacy ERPs often lack the robustness and features necessary to adhere to HIPAA regulations.
What compliance considerations do healthcare organizations need to consider when it comes to financial software?
The key for any ERP financial software is to ensure that it creates a system that is HIPAA-compliant and prevents HIPAA violations, whether intentional or otherwise.
So, what is a HIPAA violation?
A HIPAA violation occurs when:
- Protected healthcare information (PHI) is accessed beyond standard regulations. For example, let's say an individual accessed the electronic health record of a patient that they searched for in your system or that someone came across a patient's PHI in your ERP's accounting module.
- Specifics about a patient's medical history are disclosed to a non-covered entity.
- A healthcare network fails to notify an affected patient about a data breach.
Unfortunately, in all three of the above examples, legacy ERPs can lead directly to a HIPAA violation. This helps explain why it is so important that you update your accounting software and have a system that can meet current HIPAA concerns.
Protecting the security of your data is of paramount importance for any business. There is no question that this is the case for any healthcare or hospital facility or a covered entity under HIPAA. Unfortunately, cybersecurity attacks — including those on hospitals and other medical facilities — are on the rise. This security reality means you must use an accounting ERP system with appropriate cybersecurity protections.
When examining the continued viability of your legacy ERP financial, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself:
- How secure is the server you use?
- How frequently is the server updated or patched to address security concerns?
- Does the financial software in question provide any sort of cybersecurity training?
Because they are often not built with modern security needs in mind, many legacy financial systems face these issues. As a result, these systems often struggle to adequately protect their data from intrusion or theft by an outside individual or organization.
This is more than just a business and credibility problem for your organization: If your healthcare entity is found to have not taken adequate security measures, you may face a HIPAA violation. Fortunately, this is not to say that any security attack on your hospital automatically results in a HIPAA violation. However, it does mean that your organization must update and replace older systems.
In many cases, this is an argument for replacing your entire legacy accounting ERP: An older ERP may not have the security features necessary to protect your patient's data under HIPAA. It must provide a variety of active security controls that can ensure your patient's data is protected. Furthermore, it must have appropriate contingency plans in place so that patients are immediately notified if there is a breach.
There is no question that some patient data must be shared by healthcare or hospital network employees. Your organization won't have any problems if there is an adequate reason for the employee needing to access the PHI within a patient's file. After all, billing, technicians in other departments, doctors, and nurses must be able to view information to make the best decisions for a patient.
However, there is also no question that your hospital should control this access. You don't want anyone in your organization to be able to access any patient's PHI at any time. Likewise, you want to make sure that information can be shared in a non-identifiable way, with PHI only revealed when it is necessary.
If constructed properly, an accounting financial solution should be able to limit who has access to what information. Furthermore, in order to be HIPAA-compliant, it should have controls in place that ensure PHI is only revealed to specific individuals on an as-needed basis. This can further secure and prevent unauthorized access. Finally, you'll want to ensure that the ERP financial solution has adequate administrative controls. This will allow your organization to determine who is accessing what information and thus potentially find anybody attempting to access a patient's PHI without authorization.
All of these may present real challenges with legacy solutions. Many were built before HIPAA or have not been updated to address the requirements HIPAA places on healthcare facilities. As a result, these systems may not be capable of giving your patients the privacy protections to which they are legally entitled
In addition, older systems may lack customized access, not have adequate administrative controls, and prevent administrators from seeing who has viewed a patient's file. This sets the stage for a potential HIPAA violation and may result in a major problem for your organization.
Consider where the healthcare industry is heading and the strains that this may place on your already existing systems: Data analysis, which has always been a large part of healthcare networks, is now more common than ever. However, sharing and analyzing data in a HIPAA-restrictive role is more than a minor challenge. First, you have to find a way to pull reports without revealing the identifiable information of a patient.
For newer systems, this is not a challenge. These systems can create easy-to-read and easy-to-access visualizations. These reports can show patient trends, give patient information (in a HIPAA-compliant way), and aggregate data so that other hospital employees and administrators can read reports and better understand broad health issues within a healthcare system.
For legacy systems, this is a real challenge. Many systems cannot create reports or analytics without simultaneously giving away identifiable information. As a result, hospitals cannot create the data visualizations or analytics dashboards they need without risking a HIPAA violation. Creating such a report is obviously not a risk worth taking, so most hospitals with older systems will simply skip creating this information. This is a problem in and of itself: After all, your staff and hospitals need data to get a better idea of where to use resources and which areas may need improvements.
The solution, then, is to find a system capable of creating these reports without displaying or giving away any PHI. Legacy systems often don't have this capability. Newer systems, like Multiview's Healthcare ERP, do. These functions can allow your staff to access patient data quickly, get real-time information, and aggregate information to ensure that you can get the reports you need without giving away protected patient information.
As you can see, legacy financial ERPs face real challenges regarding HIPAA compliance. Many may technically comply with HIPAA regulations but lack appropriate safeguards to ensure that an individual can't access data they shouldn't. Other legacy systems may have these safeguards in place but lack the robustness necessary to serve healthcare networks adequately. As such, it may be time for your hospital or healthcare system to invest in a better solution.
If that's the case, meet Multiview's Healthcare ERP. This system offers an array of benefits that can ensure not only HIPAA compliance but that your healthcare system has access to the latest data, analytics, and visualizations necessary for your healthcare system to grow and thrive.