HIPAA Compliance: An Absolute Requirement for Your Dental Office

HIPAA Compliance: An Absolute Requirement for Your Dental Office

How does HIPAA compliance relate to you and the construction of your dental office? We hear so often how some company’s security has been breached, so its client information is at risk. Such a breach can be almost catastrophic, though, when it involves patients’ personal health information. That’s why you need to think about HIPAA compliance as part of the planning for your dental office. Your patients need to know that all their information, from birth dates and phone numbers to the details of their dental work, is absolutely secure and will remain private.

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was passed in 1996 to protect the personal health information of patients. And this necessity to protect doesn’t just apply to hospitals, doctors’ offices, or your own dental office either. The act also requires that your business associates, consultants, and vendors must be HIPAA compliant or risk serious fines. If there’s any chance they may come into contact with your dental clients’ personal health information, they must have their own HIPAA compliance and security arrangements in place to ensure no breaches.

That requirement also likely includes the construction company charged with renovating or helping you locate and construct your dental office. It might seem like overkill to require HIPAA compliance of your regular business contacts, but there is good reason for this. In December 2014, for example, the Office for Civil Rights, responsible for enforcing HIPAA privacy and security, made a startling revelation: 40% of all security breaches for collections of 500 patient records or more involved the negligence of an organization’s business associates.

So your construction company must be aware of its responsibilities to you and your patients’ data, especially with regard to HIPAA compliance, and it should already have conducted its own assessments and taken the required steps to ensure that everything is secure. The company might not be directly handling your IT installations or moving your patient files, but it’s important that your contractor is certified compliant and aware of the obligation to protect sensitive information whenever it is potentially exposed. Hiring a HIPAA compliance consultant as part of your remodel or office build-out can help ensure you are doing your best to protect your patients and your obligation under HIPAA.

In this wired era, we view the security of personal health information primarily as an issue of electronic records, but HIPAA compliance goes further. A dental office will often have at least some physical patient files as well as electronic files. So HIPAA requirements also apply to anyone who might handle those files, including off-site file storage companies, moving companies, and even staff members—both in your dental office and in the storage warehouse.

Even if you are just starting your dental office construction plans, it’s important to think ahead. Hiring a consultant to advise you on HIPAA compliance is as important as hiring an architect to design the office itself. When your HIPAA compliance is established, you and your patients can relax and get on with the reason your dental office is really there—providing them with the expert dental work they need.

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