By: Rahul Varshneya
Violating the guidelines mentioned in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and getting away with it is a thing of the past now. These days, violations are often subject to hefty fines. According to a recent report, HIPAA settlements reached a record $23 million in 2016 and have only been on the rise ever since.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) amplified its HIPAA enforcement efforts big time in 2016. Not only did it set afloat a series of random compliance audits as an important fragment of the HIPAA compliance audit program, but it also increased the penalties for HIPAA violations by close to 10%.
This means any organization that collects and transmits electronic protected health information (ePHI) should be on high alert. If your business hasn’t taken the necessary steps to become and remain HIPAA compliant, the time is now. Ignoring these important precautions and practicing outside the law is only going to put your entire organization at further risk .
So then, with so many things to be considered all at once, how do we move about it with ease? Let us look at certain important things to remember when ensuring that your healthcare website remains HIPAA Compliant with respect to the content on it.
Get well-versed with HIPAA compliance guidelines
Firstly, one needs to make sure that all the people working on the content team, right from the writers to the managers, are well-versed with guidelines of the Compliance. Professional medical writers can always help guide administrators and clinicians in writing compelling content that meets HIPAA guidelines.
The HIPAA Security Rule along with the HIPAA Privacy Rule form the very foundation of the HIPAA regulations. These rules explain when and how healthcare professionals, lawyers, or anyone who accesses your Protected Health Information (PHI) can or cannot make use of that data. Therefore, knowing them facilitates immense ease when writing anything related to the Compliance.
While HIPAA does create strict boundaries, healthcare institutions and practitioners can easily create content that is not only compliant but at the same time interesting too.
Get rid of patient identifiers
Always make it a point to delete any information that could identify or link back to the described individual. Start with the obvious identifiers, such as patient addresses and names, social security numbers, record numbers and photographs. Remove specific mental and physical health details, information about payment for services, and anything else that could track readers back to the said individual.
Even the slightest detail, such as the location and visit time, could lead to potentially exposing a patient’s identity. The best way to avoid HIPAA compliance trouble is securing a patient’s consent in advance, even before content is created.
Be cautious when implementing storytelling within your content marketing strategy
Storytelling remains to be one of the most engaging and compelling ways of interacting with patients and other health providers. It also evokes the strong emotions of clinical experience.
Similarly, narrative writing forms an integral part of an effective content marketing strategy for healthcare businesses since it reassures patients that the facility or clinician has experience in treating the condition.
In other words, personal narratives and case studies appeal to patients and doctors because being sick and providing medical care are highly emotional experiences, and narratives create an empathetic, caring tone by breathing life into otherwise boring and dry medical terminology.
Stick to HIPAA compliant hosting servers when dealing with PHI
Ben Walker, CEO and Founder of Transcription Outsourcing, “You have to be on the right HIPAA compliant servers to protect your clients information, and doing the research and checking references upfront is way easier than paying tens of thousands in penalty for one wrong decision.”
If your business handles PHI in any form, choosing HIPAA-compliant cloud storage is a mandatory requirement for ensuring the safety and security of cloud hosted data. Try to choose a platform that powers healthcare technology systems of all sizes- from small startups to large medical groups- considering future growth of your business.
These platforms run on deployment workflow most of the time, and their compliance validation engines streamline every component of the HIPAA Security, Privacy and Breach Notification Rules. They also provide comprehensive packages, including audit trails, backups and even employee training as and when need be.
The content you create only renders itself valuable if it reaches the target audience you have written it for, that too organically. Optimizing your content to suit the guidelines mentioned in HIPAA Compliance so that it ranks on the search engine’s result pages is equally important to promote discoverability, boost conversions and bring in relevant traffic for your healthcare business.