Since the COVID-19 pandemic, HIPAA-compliant remote work software has gained tremendous popularity in healthcare organizations. According to statistics, about 20% of employees worldwide work remotely. In the USA it’s almost 4.5 million people that work at home. That is more than 3% of the general population.
But today, remote work is not a matter of pandemics. On the contrary, many companies prefer to organize the working process remotely, as it provides many benefits. For example, it is a very cost-friendly solution, especially for multinational companies, but it requires good management. But when it’s easier for IT companies, HIPAA-compliant organizations face many difficulties. It concerns maintaining compliance, protecting ePHI, using unique solutions such as HIPAA-compliant remote work software, and many more.
However, telehealth became so widely used that it also pushed the development of remote culture among covered entities (CEs). So, modern problems make their adjustments in different spheres. Although, it’s hard to organize a fully remote environment in fields with strict regulations, such as HIPAA. This process involves a lot of issues because the workforce has to provide the same level of security in their homes as in the office.
But how to organize the remote work effectively? And what is the role of HIPAA-compliant remote work software in it? Let’s find it out!
What is HIPAA-Compliant Remote Work Software?
Such solutions help HIPAA-covered organizations organize remote workspace using tools that allow team members to collaborate and communicate over projects from any place and time. Usually, this type of HIPAA-compliant software consists of other software, such as collaboration tools, meeting software, DaaS solutions, etc. Standard and simultaneously the most convenient platforms include a shared custom workspace for all team members to collaborate with the help of different tools easily.
How to Choose HIPAA-Compliant Remote Work Software?
Of course, to choose the right solution that will meet all your business requirements, you must study the topic and the range of HIPAA-compliant remote work software. We’ve created a Remote Work Software category to ease this task for you. You can read all the necessary information, compare and contrast solutions and choose the best platform to your liking. But let’s look closely at some types of HIPAA-compliant remote work software.
This type of software helps provide teamwork with the help of special tools. Team members can work effectively in real-time and anywhere, tracking progress, arranging meetings, assigning tasks, and so on.
Google Workspace is the most widespread example of HIPAA-compliant remote work software. The platform is designed to help organizations customize their workspace with all necessary tools. For example, you can create an email domain for your workforce, conduct, and record meetings, manage compliance, etc.
This solution is HIPAA-compliant because Google Workspace keeps up with best practices and cybersecurity standards. Covered entities (CEs) can sign a business associate agreement (BAA) with Google, so you don’t have to worry about data ownership requirements, data security, guidelines transparency, etc. In addition, the platform complies with ISO/IEC 27001, ISO/IEC 27017, FedRAMP, SOC ⅔, GDPR standards, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.
Meeting software allows teammates to organize and join meetings. It permits users to conduct remote meetings based on VoIP, message and information exchange, file and screen sharing, etc. This type of software must have a high level of security and encryption to be HIPAA-compliant to prevent data breaches and unintentional disclosures.
This meeting platform helps organizations align teamwork worldwide and allows them to make more consistent decisions. A unified user experience on mobile, desktop, and on-premises versions provide rich functionality and user-friendliness.
As for the security standards, VidyoConnect is a HIPAA-compliant solution. The platform has extensive encryption that protects video conferences from unauthorized accession. Also, a video recording feature is available to customers who want to manage the process independently but comply with HIPAA. VidyoConnect doesn’t store any PHI, but it provides an encrypted transmission of sensitive data.
Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is a cloud computing service where the provider delivers virtual desktops to final users via the web. The service usually offers a pay-per-user. It uses a backend infrastructure based on the VDI.
V2 Cloud is integrated software that helps businesses of any size to store and access data securely in the cloud. The main features are multi-factor authentication, screen sharing, HTTPS encryption, and many more. In addition, the solution has a user-friendly interface and is very effortless to use.
It is prior for cloud service providers to ensure the privacy and security of the service. So, V2 Cloud keeps up with HIPAA, ISO/IEC 27001, PCI DSS, SOC 1 Type ll and SOC 2 Type ll, and others.
You can check the rest of the HIPAA-compliant remote work software in our category. Enjoy!
How to Organize HIPAA-Compliant Remote Work Environment?
Of course, HIPAA-compliant remote work software a bit eases the deployment of remote working processes in healthcare organizations. But it’s still cat’s cradle, as many other procedures don’t depend on the program but human, technical factors, and many more. So, before organizing a HIPAA-compliant remote work environment, it’s better to know all problems that may occur during the process and develop ways of avoiding or addressing incidents.
Cases of Data Breaches Made by Remote Employees
As you might know, the HITECH introduction complemented HIPAA and restricted its language. Requirements became more severe, and punishments were harsher. Monetary penalties increased multiple times, so HIPAA violations appeared to be not only dangerous but also expensive.
Cancer Care Group Case
Cancer Care Group, a private radiation oncology physician practice, paid a 750K USD fine due to the employees’ negligence in leaving the laptop and backup disk in the car, where thieves stole it. The computer contained about 50K patients’ sensitive data and health records.
After the audit, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) determined that the organization didn’t comply with HIPAA requirements. First of all, when the incident occurred, Cancer Care Group could not conduct risk management within the organization. Also, OCR found out that the company didn’t have written policies concerning taking off the equipment containing ePHI into and out of its office.
Another example of incidents with remote healthcare workers is the Lincare Case. The respiratory medical group agreed to pay a 240K USD penalty. The thing is that a remote worker breached about 280 patients’ PHI and disclosed their sensitive data.
The investigation revealed that the organization didn’t have appropriate protection policies and procedures regarding patients’ data that was moved offsite. But it’s worth it because workers often take off patients’ PHI from offices. Also, Lincare had an unwritten policy for certain employees to store PHI in their vehicles for an extended period. But these issues are not the only ones in the company. Employees stated that their personally identifiable information (PII) is treated unacceptably.
How to Secure PHI in the Remote Environment?
First, if you plan to change the work format or hire remote employees, you need to implement specific policies and procedures for them. It includes making the list of remote employees and determining the type of data to which they have access.
Secondly, describe the requirements for the equipment, hardware, and software.
Here are some steps on how to do it:
- Encrypt Wi-Fi router traffic by WPA2-AES. It is a general configuration, and most routers are configured in advance.
- Change wireless routers’ default login data for a more difficult one. It provides a higher level of security.
- Ensure all devices that have access to your network are correctly configured by IT. Devices should be encrypted, protected by password, and installed with software firewalls and antivirus.
- Demand employees to use VPNs when they work remotely on the company’s internal network.
- All PHI should be encrypted before transmission. It can perform through the internet as well as through internal email encryption.
- Manage encryption and passwords to protect employees’ devices to access PHI.
- Let your IT department or provider configure personal devices before giving them access to the network. For example, mention what brand and versions of devices can access the company’s information.
And finally, describe your security and confidentiality demands:
- For example, employees don’t have to let their relatives and friends access devices that contain patients’ PHI.
- Make the workforce sign a Confidentiality Agreement to provide maximum confidentiality during the work on PHI.
- Create Bring Your Device (BYOD) agreement with distinct rules of use.
- Employees who store PHI on paper in their houses must have a locker or safe.
- Employees should have a shredding machine at home to destroy papers with PHI. In turn, an employer must make clear when it is necessary to utilize documents.
- Team members must keep up with Media Sanitization Policy to dispose of all PHI or devices containing it.
- Ensure that workforce disconnects from the organization’s network when they finish working. Usually, it is up to timeout settings.
- Colleagues can’t copy PHI on external media that isn’t approved by the organization-employer. It involves flash cards and hard disks. However, you can demand all PHI to stay within the company’s network.
- Make records of remote access activity and review it periodically. IT should restrict all accounts that are inactive for more than 30 days.
It would help if you clarified that all employees that break these rules would fall within the Sanction Policy of the organization and civil and criminal punishments.
So, it’s not a problem to decide that HIPAA-compliant remote work software is not a myth at all. It is a reality that many covered entities (CEs) have used for many years. Many events make companies in different fields and of various sizes adjust to modern reality.
Compared with the IT branch, it’s more difficult to manage remote work in the HIPAA field as it has far stricter requirements. But in the end, considering all the nuances of a remote job in the HIPAA sphere, many organizations nowadays work remotely. In addition, the telehealth format has been a pretty popular thing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Many applications, software, and tools help HIPAA-covered entities maintain remote work, such as HIPAA-compliant remote work software. Still, it’s important to remember that not everything depends on the software but also employees. So, it’s essential to organize a remote work environment properly using the best security practices to eliminate the human factor in possible errors. Thus, a well-organized remote working process is as essential as a good HIPAA-compliant remote work software.
If you still have questions regarding HIPAA-compliant remote work software and remote work process establishment, feel free to contact us!