By following HIPAA standards for medical imaging, healthcare practitioners limit the risk of compromising patient data.
- The Health Information Privacy and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare practitioners to take steps to secure health information against security risks.
- HIPAA standards must be followed by healthcare professionals who handle MRI and CT scans.
- Failure to comply with HIPAA requirements can result in civil or criminal penalties, with fines up to $250,000.
- Medical imaging storage technologies are available that align with HIPAA standards and empower healthcare professionals to manage MRI and CT scans securely and easily.
Surgeons, radiologists, and other healthcare professionals that use medical images (X-rays, CT scans, etc.) must comply with Health Information Privacy and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards. Failure to do so can cause the healthcare facilities they work in to receive significant financial compliance penalties. Even worse, it can cause patients’ protected health information (PHI) to fall into the wrong hands, creating myriad security risks.
A clear understanding of HIPAA is a must for any healthcare professionals responsible for medical imaging. Now, let’s answer some of the biggest questions surrounding HIPAA and its requirements.
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA is a federal law that was passed in 1996 to create national standards relating to the protection of patient health information.
All healthcare providers that electronically transmit health information are subject to HIPAA. The law mandates these providers must take appropriate measures to protect patient information from being disclosed without their consent.
Healthcare providers subject to HIPAA must comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. According to the rule, they must ensure patient data is protected at all times. They must also ensure health information is accessible to the point where it does not hamper patient care.
How does HIPAA apply to medical images?
All medical images contain images of patients’ anatomical structures. They are used to help diagnose patients and provide them with the best possible care. At the same time, the images include sensitive personal information, and they must be protected accordingly.
Without proper protection, health information is susceptible to data breaches. A healthcare data breach endangers a provider and their patient. Once it happens, it can take many months or years to fully recover.
HIPAA penalizes healthcare organizations that unknowingly or intentionally ignore health information security requirements. Under HIPAA, healthcare practitioners that use medical images must store, secure, and manage them properly. If a healthcare professional violates HIPAA requirements, their organization may be subject to civil and criminal penalties that range from $100 to $250,000.
What do healthcare professionals need to do to comply with HIPAA for medical images?
HIPAA requires safeguards to be put into place to protect medical images and other PHI. These safeguards fall into three categories:
Administrative safeguards include processes and procedures to secure health information. They involve setting up systems for health information storage and management. In addition, health information system backups must be created and maintained. And, systems must be updated regularly.
Healthcare facilities must have controls in place that prevent unauthorized users from accessing health information. These controls must be established for servers, workstations, and other systems that contain health information. They are required for disk drives, flash drives, and other health information storage devices as well.
With technical safeguards, healthcare professionals can verify that authorized users are the only ones who can access PHI. The safeguards require healthcare organizations to set up guidelines for adding and removing user access to health information systems and stipulate that electronic data must be closely monitored and managed.
How to avoid HIPAA violations
It is a healthcare organization’s responsibility to comply with HIPAA standards if it handles medical images or other electronic data. As such, the organization should first learn about these standards and stay up to date on them. This allows the facility’s personnel to verify that its systems align with HIPAA standards.
Healthcare organizations must educate their employees about HIPAA standards. Implement a HIPAA training program for employees to make sure all workers understand HIPAA standards and can do their part to avoid HIPAA violations.
When it comes to HIPAA, it often helps to invest in technologies that correspond with associated standards. Choosing medical imaging storage technology, for example, that ensures medical images remain safe can help your facility comply with HIPAA standards. This technology may even help maximize productivity and efficiency.
Choosing the right medical imaging storage technology
Medical imaging sharing and storage technologies are readily available. Yet, not all of these technologies align with HIPAA and other healthcare regulations.
Some medical imaging storage technologies fail to stay up to date with healthcare mandates. This means, when new regulations are passed, the organizations that use them may need to look elsewhere for technologies that align with the updated requirements.
It is also important to note that cyberattacks are constantly evolving, and medical imaging storage technologies must keep pace. By using technology that can be regularly updated for emerging cyber threats, a healthcare organization is well-equipped to protect health information about cyberattacks now and in the future.
DICOM Director has introduced a PACS system that is compliant with HIPAA and other healthcare regulations: STORE XR and SHARE XR. Healthcare organizations can use these systems to keep all of their medical imaging in a single location and ensure they are properly secured.
STORE XR makes it easy for healthcare organizations to comply with HIPAA regulations without putting patients’ MRI and CT scans in danger. SHARE XR enables seamless communication between physicians, patients, and other providers by making it easy to share large data files — like CT and MRI scans, mammograms, breast tomograms, and even pathology slide images —quickly through electronic file transfer.
For more information on how STORE XR and SHARE XR can help your facility maintain HIPAA compliance for all its medical imaging needs, contact DICOM Director today.