If your organization is a covered entity under HIPAA, it is crucial that you abide by its extensive list of privacy and security rules. Not only does it help you avoid hefty penalties, but it also fosters trust and reliability among your patients.
HIPAA covers everything you must know about managing highly sensitive data and information, including the proper safekeeping of medical records. In this article, we will explore HIPAA storage requirements and best practices.
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3 Best Practices for Storing Protected Health Information
Aside from following HIPAA storage requirements, there are other things that you can do to protect PHI.
1. Regularly conduct risk assessment
While it’s not necessarily a HIPAA storage requirement, the law requires you to periodically evaluate your document management system. This helps you identify the weak areas in your processes that may potentially put your data at risk. By doing so, you’ll be able to rectify these issues.
Conducting risk assessment also provides you with insights into further improving your workflow.
2. Assign a key person
You need to select from an individual who will oversee your document storage workflow. This person must ensure that all HIPAA storage requirements are met and that your organization remains compliant with the guidelines. They will also be responsible for granting access to your other teammates who wish to get hold of certain documents.
The key person manages passwords, access codes, keys, and the like for your team.
3. Keep an audit trail
You need to have a record on everything that goes on in your repository, including who accessed what and when. This can help you keep an eye out on unauthorized access to any of your data. Luckily, there are software and tools that can help you generate reports like this in just a few minutes.
What Are the Different HIPAA Storage Requirements?
If your organization regularly deals with documents containing protected health information (PHI), you must ensure that you meet all the HIPAA storage requirements. Let us go through each of them:
- Keep paper records in a secure location. It’s best to select an area that has low foot traffic and is not easily accessible by unauthorized parties. Make sure storage rooms have doors that can be locked.
- Use physical locks. If you must store your records in hallways or other high-traffic areas, make sure that you keep your files in locked cabinets. Storing files in open shelves is prohibited as this makes patient data more vulnerable.
- Establish access control. Only a few individuals should be given access to the storage facility. This makes it easier for you to monitor activities.
- Invest in a reliable security system. Install CCTV cameras in the areas where you store your PHI. You may also use locks that require passcodes to enter.
- Create a proper archiving system. HIPAA encourages adopting a systematic way of storing your records to ensure that no document gets misfiled or lost. This also makes locating and retrieving files a lot easier.
- Encrypt electronic medical records. This prevents unauthorized and malicious parties from accessing sensitive information like personal details and lab results.
- Choose HIPAA-compliant software. Aside from boosting your efficiency, using document management tools can help you meet HIPAA storage requirements. Most of them have advanced security features to safeguard confidential data.
- Opt for a cloud-based solution. Storing your medical records in hard drives leaves your data vulnerable to loss or damage. With cloud storage, you don’t have to worry about any of those things. It’s reliable, convenient, and most importantly, secure.
- Log out of your account and devices after using them. No matter how fancy your tools are, if you leave your computer for anyone to access, you are increasing the risk of breaches and unauthorized access.
FAQs: HIPAA Storage Requirements
How long can HIPAA documents be stored?
Alongside HIPAA storage requirements, the law also has guidelines for how long you can retain documents containing PHI. Covered entities must keep hold of the file for a minimum of six years from when it was created.
One important thing to note is HIPAA’s retention requirement varies on the type of document you have at hand as well as the nature of business of the covered entities.
How to properly dispose HIPAA documents
The rule of thumb when it comes to disposing HIPAA documents and medical records is that it needs to be completely destroyed beyond recovery.
For paper documents, you can use the ever-reliable shredder. It’s quick, easy, and cost-effective. Digital files, on the other hand, require a bit more work. If you store your medical records in hard drives, you must destroy the device. If they are on the cloud, they must be permanently deleted with no way of ever recovering the data.
Meet HIPAA Storage Requirements With Fill
One of the most crucial steps to ensuring that your organization meets all the HIPAA storage requirements is to have the right tool in your arsenal. One that would certainly simplify your document management system is Fill, an electronic signature application.
This HIPAA-compliant, feature-rich platform offers a faster and secure way of not only signing medical documents but also storing them. Fill is completely cloud-based, which means you do not have to deal with physical documents. You may also use their built-in scanner to convert paper documents into digital ones. It also improves accessibility while maintaining the highest level of security and confidentiality.
Sign up with Fill today and explore our other helpful features.