How a HIPAA Expert Can Help Your Dental Practice Stay Compliant

June 24, 2021 | 3 min read

If you run a dental office, you can’t afford to overlook HIPAA guidelines, which is key to cybersecurity in dentistry. Failure to stay compliant not only exposes your practice to cyberattacks but also leads to substantial penalties.

However, navigating the complex regulations isn’t a stroll in the park. It requires specialized knowledge and ongoing audits to ensure compliance. That’s why more dental practices are hiring HIPAA experts to help them avoid costly mistakes.

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The Roles and Responsibilities of a HIPAA Expert

A HIPAA expert often assumes the role of a HIPAA compliance officer. They’re responsible for implementing programs and enforcing guidelines to ensure that your practice adheres to HIPAA and HITECH guidelines.

To fill this role, you can either hire a dedicated compliance officer, assign it to an existing employee, or outsource the job completely. This person must be familiar with healthcare legislation and standards for ensuring the safety of protected health information (PHI.) 

A HIPAA compliance officer can help you:

  • Develop and enforce a HIPAA-compliant privacy program in your practice to ensure the safety of PHI.
  • Monitor changes to HIPAA regulations and update your policies regularly to maintain compliance status.
  • Conduct an audit when a new technology is installed or a new workflow is implemented to ensure data security in the new processes.
  • Create training materials and administer employee education programs to ensure that any staff member who handles PHI or ePHI adheres to your privacy policies.
  • Conduct risk assessments, which are required by HIPAA regulations. The compliance officer may handle the process or work with a consultant to do so.
  • Design and implement a remediation plan to address gaps identified during risk assessments.
  • Create patient-friendly communication materials to explain their rights under HIPAA, per the notice of privacy practices.
  • Investigate and respond to complaints about HIPAA non-compliance.
  • Provide the resources and knowledge your employees need to comply with regulations governing PHI.
  • Ensure that all external service providers (e.g., software vendors, billing services) have signed the Business Associate Agreement (BAA) and stay HIPAA compliant.

The Benefits of Having a HIPAA Expert on Your Team

Now you may wonder, why can’t we just get our IT guy to handle HIPAA compliance?

HIPAA compliance goes beyond IT. Not to mention, your IT folks are probably already stretched thin and don’t have the extra bandwidth to perform the analysis, assessments, and administrative tasks required to ensure that your dental practice stays compliant.

Additionally, a compliance officer can provide an aim perspective during audits and assessments to catch any issues that your internal IT team might have overlooked.

Some HIPAA guidelines are technical and require specialized knowledge in cybersecurity. A compliance officer is well-versed in these measures and techniques. They can help you implement the right technology, software applications, and processes to achieve a high level of data security.

Moreover, HIPAA compliance is an ongoing effort. Not only do you have to stay abreast of changing regulations, but you also need to make sure that any changes you have made to your practice don’t affect your compliance status. Having a dedicated resource helps ensure accountability, so nothing falls through the cracks. 

A HIPAA expert is also responsible for keeping records of your risk assessments and analyses. These are critical documentation if your practice has to undergo a HIPAA audit or an investigation.

Do I Need a HIPAA Expert?

The short answer is yes!

Whether you’re hiring an internal resource or outsourcing the role, having a HIPAA expert on your team can help you navigate the complex regulations, stay compliant, protect your sensitive patient data, and avoid hefty fines.

To help your HIPAA expert do their job and minimize the risks of oversight, use a cloud-based HIPAA-compliant dental practice management platform to ensure that your workflows are compliant and your patient data is protected. 

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