Preparing Your Small Medical Practice for a HIPAA Audit

July 25th, 2022 /
Vikram Maindan
/ 5 Min Read

As someone in the medical field, your focus is on helping people receive the care they need. Part of this care comes in the form of protecting each patient’s privacy and medical data. 

In 1996, the federal government passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. This act was intended to ensure that the safety and privacy of individual health information remained protected across the medical institution. 

To uphold the act, potential HIPAA violations are taken very seriously. But if you’ve been selected for a HIPAA audit, you may be wondering how to best comply with the guidelines.  Read on to learn more about your HIPAA audit and find out how to start preparing for it today.

A HIPAA Audit: What is it Exactly? 

HIPAA Compliant

HIPAA audits are conducted by the Office for Civil Rights. The OCR works closely with medical institutions and practices to ensure HIPAA regulations are being met responsibly. If a practice shows signs that it may not be HIPAA compliant, the OCR will conduct an audit to assess any issues and take corrective action.  

HIPAA Audit Requirements 

There are many HIPAA components that a medical provider must be in compliance with to avoid an audit. These requirements generally fall into a few categories, including: 

  • Privacy standards 
  • Assets and devices
  • IT security risk assessments 
  • Security rule standards 
  • Physical site evaluation 
  • HITECH subtitle D 

Proper compliance in each of these areas ensures you’ll pass your audit without running into any violations or fees.  

Here’s What Triggers a HIPAA Audit 

You may be wondering why you’ve been selected for an audit, especially if you’ve previously taken steps to comply with HIPAA regulations.  

Investigations are always triggered by a reported violation or complaint. This includes reports made by you, a patient, a staff member or other kind of whistleblower. Often, you’ll receive notice of the audit shortly after a complaint is filed.  

How Long Does a HIPAA Audit Take? 

The length of your HIPAA audit will depend on how prepared you are going into it. With proper compliance, the process can take as little as a few weeks. But if complications arise, it could be closer to a year or even longer.  

The size and type of your organization are also factors, with smaller practices generally requiring less time to complete the audit.  

HIPAA Audit Protocols 

Once you’ve been notified of your audit, there are two ways the investigation may proceed. For HIPAA desk audits, the OCR will request documentation pertaining to your compliance, including employee training records, existing policies and business associate agreements. 

In the case of an onsite HIPAA audit, OCR investigators will conduct an onsite evaluation of your organization’s physical premises. These often include a review of your documentation as well. 

Preparing for a HIPAA Audit 

The last thing you want is to be unexpectedly found in violation of HIPAA. Luckily, there are some things you can do to ensure your audit runs smoothly and uneventfully. Here are five steps you can take to prepare for your HIPAA audit.  

HIPAA Compliance Audit

1. Train Your Employees for HIPAA Compliance 

Training is a critical aspect of HIPAA compliance. Employees who aren’t adequately familiar with HIPAA put you at risk of violating the act and failing the audit.  

To avoid this risk, keep documentation of all training to pass on to the OCR. And, make sure each member of your team is trained thoroughly to answer any questions they may be asked during the audit.  

2. Conduct a Risk Assessment 

Before your audit, it’s vital that you conduct your own risk assessment. Doing so allows you to catch any privacy violations that you may have been otherwise unaware of.  

Part of your risk assessment should include an evaluation of all necessary documentation. Having the right records readily available will speed up the process of your audit and increase your chance of passing smoothly.  

3. Appoint a Privacy and Security Officer 

HIPAA requires all complying organizations to appoint a privacy and security officer. This person will then be responsible for demonstrating that an effort to meet regulations has been made. 

When selecting an officer, it’s important to choose an employee who is capable of being responsible for a significant portion of the audit process. Among other things, they’ll be required to create a list of securities and safeguard, regularly schedule policy reviews and record any breaches or incidents.  

4. Implement a HIPAA Compliance Plan 

Once you’ve independently conducted a risk assessment and uncovered any unseen violations, it’s time to develop a HIPAA compliance plan that you can use to correct these findings.  

When creating your compliance plan, be sure to develop a timeline and add self-imposed deadlines to each change you plan to make. During your audit, you can discuss your plan with the OCR to demonstrate your dedication to complying to HIPAA regulations.  

5. Update Your Compliance Plan Regularly 

Though you’re probably eager to be finished with your audit as soon as possible, it’s important to recognize that HIPAA compliance is a continuous process. Even once you’ve been deemed compliant, it will still be necessary to assess risks periodically to prevent any additional violations.  

Updating your compliance plan regularly ensures your organization remains in good standing with the OCR and keeps the privacy of your patients protected at all costs.  

Stay HIPAA Compliant With Help From PrognoCIS EHR 

HIPAA Compliance EHR

In the technological age, patient privacy has become more complex with the use of electronic health records. And since HIPAA regulations extend to cybersecurity, it’s more important now than ever to partner with the right electronic security provider.  

PrognoCIS Electronic Health Records is dedicated to keeping your patient’s privacy secure and keeping you in compliance with HIPAA regulations. Request a demo today to find out how PrognoCIS can help you secure your organization.

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