HIPAA Certification: A Step-by-Step Approach to get HIPAA Certified

Gowsika

Gowsika

Mar 01, 2024

HIPAA Certification

So, what’s the big hullabaloo about HIPAA certifications? Can getting one help your organization? While nothing can prevent a healthcare organization from an audit, getting a third-party HIPAA certification demonstrates your compliance posture.

Read on to learn what is HIPAA Certification and how to get HIPAA certification.

What is HIPAA Certification?

HIPAA compliance certification is an indication that a covered entity, such as a healthcare provider or business associate, has successfully completed a third-party HIPAA compliance program. This further indicates that the covered entity was HIPAA-compliant at the time of completion. Post that time, the HIPAA certification doesn’t serve as a guarantee of compliance.

In simple words, HIPAA certification refers to a healthcare organisation or business associate in healthcare, meets the standards of Privacy, Security and Breach notification rules under HIPAA.

HIPAA compliance certification for companies costs can start from $10000 and exceed $150000 depending on the nature and complexity of the organization’s requirements. It takes 2 weeks or more to complete the HIPAA certification process.

HIPAA certification takes on two essential forms: first, as a momentary accreditation that demonstrates an organization’s success in a HIPAA compliance certification. The other is how your company’s workforce has attained the HIPAA certification expertise level by complying with the policies.

Healthcare organizations and related entities receive the certification by following the protocols related to privacy, security, and breach protection requirements of HIPAA.

When you seek HIPAA accreditation, it compels businesses to adopt the best privacy practices and implement the administrative, technical, and physical safeguards outlined in the HIPAA Security Rule.

Refer to the below video for a complete HIPAA compliance checklist:

Why HIPAA Certification is important to Healthcare Providers?

HIPAA accreditation holds importance to healthcare organizations on multiple counts. Healthcare providers often pursue compliance with HIPAA regulations as a crucial aspect of their operations. And this also because, failure to do so can result in severe legal consequences, including fines and penalties.

Here are the 4 important points you should be aware of:

Importance of HIPAA Certification

1. Know your compliance status

Compliance with HIPAA isn’t optional. Besides, failure to comply can be pretty expensive. So, a certification audit, even by a third-party consultant, can help the healthcare industry understand its compliance status. It can showcase gaps and oversights in their compliance readiness.

2. Showcase a proactive approach to HIPAA

HHS expects organizations to take decisive action to meet HIPAA standards continually. Even though certifications don’t stand as proof of future compliance, they demonstrate that the organization has made its ‘good faith’ efforts to get compliant with HIPAA and may stand it in good stead in case of a breach or an audit.

3. Stand out from the crowd

It’s one thing to say you are HIPAA compliant, and it’s another to have a credible third-party assessor back your compliance claim. By law, HIPAA makes it mandatory for covered entities to work with HIPAA-compliant vendors. As HIPAA-certified business associates, you can somewhat reduce deal frictions when prospecting opportunities with covered entities.

4. Add to your HIPAA documentation

HIPAA certification carried out by a professional services organization can make for reliable documentation that your organization can share with prospects regarding your compliance status.

What are the HIPAA certification requirements?

HIPAA certification hinges on meeting three critical requirements. These components revolve around administrative, physical, and technical safeguards. If you want to adhere to HIPAA regulations fully, you must diligently implement these safeguards alongside all the provisions detailed in the Security and Breach Notification Rules.

Here are the three HIPAA certification requirements to follow:

1. Certification of Covered Entities

If you fall under the category of a covered entity according to HIPAA, there’s a set of rules you must follow. These rules are about safeguarding the privacy and security of health information. 

Also, as a covered entity, you must grant certain rights to individuals concerning their health data. It’s all part of ensuring that healthcare information remains private and secure.

For covered entities to be HIPAA certified, areas of evaluation include:

  • Compliance with the physical, technical, and administrative safeguards of the HIPAA
  • Compliance with HIPAA’s Security Rule (includes physical site audit, asset and device audit, IT risk analysis questionnaire, and more)
  • Remediation plans to fill the gaps revealed by the assessments to lessen criminal penalties
  • Policies and procedures to implement and monitor compliance efforts with HIPAA
  • HIPAA certification training for employees
  • Updated and detailed HIPAA documentation
  • Management of business associate agreements and due diligence processes
  • Incident management procedures

2. Certification of Business Associates

The HIPAA certification requirements for business associates are similar to those of covered entities, except that they are customized based on the type of services offered.

Here are some must-knows:

  • Implementation of HIPAA security and awareness training program for all members of the workforce and not just for those providing services to covered entities
  • BAs are often subject to third-party audits to assure covered entities that their services, products, and policies are HIPAA-certified.

We know that implementing everything included in the HIPAA Security and Privacy rule requires a lot of time and effort. This is why the invention of compliance automation software plays a huge role. Usually, compliance automation software will help you get certified with various ready features, which you would have to do manually or with the help of certified HIPAA professional.

Sprinto helps you automate 90% of your compliance tasks. With the help of the continuous monitoring feature, you can find any anomalies and address the issues promptly. 

Also, to get your audit ready, Sprinto helps you collect evidence through screenshots and logs. This way, when you get audited, the auditor has to take a look at the dashboard. To know more, book a demo here.

3. Certification of Healthcare Providers

Due to their direct interaction with patients, healthcare providers require a more profound and on-ground understanding of HIPAA regulations and violations to improve compliance efforts. Therefore, the HIPAA accreditation program for healthcare providers goes beyond the context of a covered entity’s HIPAA policies and procedures.

They must be educated and trained to understand why the rules exist and how they can become HIPAA-compliant employees.

Their HIPAA training, therefore, must also dwell on the often-violated HIPAA standards. These include:

  • Patients’ rights
  • Minimum required standard
  • Permissible uses and disclosures 

To educate employees on permissible uses and disclosures of PHI, Sprinto also provides training modules. You can use the training as is or customize it based on your requirements. You can notify employees to forget to complete the training as well.

HIPAA certification training dashboard

Get HIPAA Certified without any Hassle with Sprinto. Let’s Get Started

How to get HIPAA Certification?

Before you approach a third-party professional service organization to review and certify your compliance with HIPAA, you must create and execute a compliance program.

To become HIPAA certified, an organization must follow the below 7 steps to get HIPAA compliant in few weeks

Here are the 7 steps you must take to get HIPAA certification:

Step 1: Select a Security & Privacy Officer within the organization

The HIPAA Security Rule requires every healthcare organization to appoint a security officer to develop and implement the necessary policies. The Privacy Rules also mandate organizations to designate a privacy officer.

Aside from legal requirements, it is impossible to implement HIPAA’s rigorous compliance without designated officers. You can either appoint a new employee(s) or assign an existing one(s) for this role. Most organizations hire one person to fill the security and privacy officer role or designate one person for each role. Either way, HIPAA doesn’t have strict guidelines for selecting a compliance officer.

HIPAA Privacy vs Security Officer

Automate HIPAA Security Implementations with the help of Sprinto.

Step 2: Establish privacy policies within the organization

HIPAA requires covered entities to develop and implement appropriate policies and procedures to comply with HIPAA Security and Privacy Rule provisions. You must maintain written privacy and security policies and procedures and keep records of required activities, actions, and assessments for up to six years from creation. 

You must also ensure that the policies and procedures are reviewed periodically and updated to accommodate changes in your business environment or organization that can affect the security of your PHI and ePHI.

Some of the policies that you will need to establish include:

HIPAA certification policies

You don’t need to find these policies manually, as Sprinto offers ready-to-use policies and templates. You can choose to edit the policies and add relevant sections as well.

Step 3: Establish security procedures to safeguard PHI

HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to uphold PHI’s confidentiality, patient privacy, and security and calls for three types of safeguards: administrative, physical, and technical.

These safeguards lay the foundation for the security procedures external organizations to implement to safeguard PHI in their environment to get the certificate of completion.

HIPAA certification Safeguards

1. Administrative Safeguards

Organizations must document their security management process, analyze risks to ePHI, and implement security measures to mitigate them.

2. Physical safeguards

Organizations must control access to the physical facilities where ePHI is stored and secure all workstations and devices that store or transmit ePHI.

3. Technical safeguards

Organizations must implement technical safeguards that include hardware, software, and other technology to limit access to e-PHI.

At a broader level, HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to implement some of these cybersecurity measures to ensure compliance requirements:

  • Access control
  • Data encryption
  • Audit logging
  • User authentication
  • Data backups and disaster recovery
  • Business Associate Agreements (BAA)

Step 4: Establish Business Associate Agreements with vendors

HIPAA Privacy Rule mandates covered entities to obtain reasonable assurances from their business associates that they will ensure the security of the PHI it receives or creates on behalf of the former. These assurances are legally binding as a written BAA with clearly assigned responsibilities for each party concerning PHI.

The BAA, therefore, makes the business associates also responsible for safeguarding PHI as per HIPAA.

You can look up sample business associate agreements on HHS’ website for successful completion.

HIPAA Certification baa

You can look up sample business associate agreements on HHS’ website. 

Step 5: Train staff as per HIPAA guidelines

Your organization’s compliance with HIPAA is only as good as your employees’ understanding and compliance with HIPAA regulations. So, you must give compliance training to your employees on the law, its updates, and its many nuances.

HIPAA Certification training

Besides, employee HIPAA training is an annual requirement. HIPAA defines workforce as ‘trainees, volunteers, employees or any other individual whose conduct, while performing work under a business associate or covered entity, is under the business associate’s or entity’s direct control.’

Getting your employees trained to become HIPAA-compliant has several benefits.

  • Reduce the possibility of HIPAA violations and/or data breaches due to human error
  • Showcase an appropriate amount of care to abide by HIPAA Rules in case of OCR audits or inquiries
  • Promote patient trust, support promotions, and raise job prospects for employees
  • It lessens the chances of attracting sanctions such as written warnings or losing one’s professional accreditation

The Sprinto advantage

Sprinto offers a user-friendly solution for training your staff. It provides access to various training modules that you can seamlessly use to educate and upskill your employees.

Step 6: Implement annual risk assessment to mitigate data breaches

Conducting a risk analysis is the first step in identifying and implementing safeguards that comply with HIPAA’s Security Rule standards. Covered entities and business associates must conduct an annual security risk analysis (SRA) to identify and assess the risks and vulnerabilities to PHI’s confidentiality, availability, and integrity in their environment.

implementing HIPAA risk assessment for certification

The HHS has laid down detailed guidelines on how to carry out the risk analysis, or you can get the compliance experts to do it:

1. Monitor Data Collection

To begin with, organizations must identify where the e-PHI is stored, received, maintained, or transmitted.

2. Identify and Document Potential Threats and Vulnerabilities

Organizations must then identify and document reasonably anticipated threats and vulnerabilities to e-PHI.

3. Assess Current Security Measures

Organizations must then assess and document the security measures they use to safeguard e-PHI – whether they are already in place, configured, and used correctly.

4. Determine the Likelihood of Threat Occurrence


Organizations must consider the probability of potential risks to e-PHI so that safeguard against ‘reasonably anticipated’ threats can be put in place. Organizations must document the same.

5. Determine the Potential Impact of Threat Occurrence

Organizations must assess the magnitude of the potential impact of the identified threats or the possible exploitation of an identified vulnerability. The impact can be measured using either a qualitative or quantitative method or a combination of the two.

6. Determine the Level of Risk

Organizations must now assign risk levels for all the threats and the identified vulnerability combinations during the risk analysis. The level of risk could be determined, for example, by analyzing the values assigned to the likelihood of threat occurrence and its impact.

7. Finalize Documentation

The Security Rule requires the risk analysis to be documented but does not require a specific format.

HIPAA’s Security Rule requires organizations to implement administrative, physical, and technical safeguards based on risk assessment and analysis to protect ePHI. 

HIPAA also offers a Security Risk Assessment Tool for organizations to conduct a risk assessment with ongoing compliance. While organizations needn’t submit their security risk assessment, it serves as a supporting document to showcase that the organization conducted a thorough and accurate risk analysis as required by HIPAA.

How does Sprinto help here?

Sprinto uses continuous monitoring to closely watch your IT system, identifying security weaknesses, and alerting you to any unusual activities. It collects evidence of potential vulnerabilities and threats, and you can even manually upload screenshots for analysis.

Also, Sprinto provides suggestions on how to address these security issues, guiding you in patching any holes in your system. To stay on top of security gaps, regular tests are performed on third-party solutions to guarantee their security.

Step 7: Establish breach notification protocol 

Organizations must establish guidelines around breach notification in line with HIPAA requirements. HIPAA’s Breach Notification Rule requires covered entities to notify individuals when their unsecured PHI gets breached. Post a breach, the organization is obligated to inform the relevant parties (individuals, HHS, and/or the media) within 60 calendar days from when PHI was compromised or when they discovered it was.

HIPAA Breach notification

There, however, are a few exceptions. These include

  • The breached data is encrypted to the standards of HIPAA
  • The breach was done in good faith and not further used unlawfully
  • If the unauthorized person wouldn’t have been able to retain the information

Your organization’s HIPAA policies must be communicated to all staff.

Do the above-mentioned steps feel a lot to digest? Where to start? What are the certification requirements you need to follow? Fret not! To streamline your HIPAA certification process, we have the perfect checklist for to align your organization’s infrastructure with the HIPAA guidelines.

Detangle the complexities of HIPAA compliance with Sprinto

Who audits your HIPAA certification and approves them as per HIPAA law?

No official organization backs the HIPAA certification process. At best, it validates your organization’s compliance with HIPAA. Several third-party professionals assess organizations based on HIPAA audit protocol and identify gaps, vulnerabilities, and areas of improvement.

Some of these vendors perform HIPAA evaluations and assist organizations in implementing effective compliance programs.

Find out how Sprinto is helping organizations become and stay HIPAA-certified

As a cloud-hosted business associate looking at covered entities for growth opportunities, your compliance with HIPAA can be a real clincher. Sprinto helps you tick all the boxes for compliance with HIPAA in an effortless and automated way that complements your business needs.

It comes with in-app features to monitor your HIPAA safeguards, manage vendors and subcontractors with PHI access, and offer in-built  HIPAA training for your staff. It integrates HIPAA rules and your relevant security controls onto the platform such that you can get a dashboard view of your compliance status at any point in time.

Talk to us today to know more about how you can get HIPAA compliant and maintain it with continuous monitoring

FAQs

1. How long does HIPAA certification last?

While the HIPAA certification process only reflects an organization’s compliance with HIPAA at the time of assessment, all HIPAA-related documentation should be retained for a minimum of six years.

2. Why is HIPAA certification important?

HIPAA Certification is important for covered entities and business associates on the following counts:

  • It gives them a comprehensive understanding of their compliance status
  • It showcases a proactive approach to HIPAA and can stand them in good stead at the time of HIPAA audit
  • It helps them stand out from the crowd and competition and shows them in good light
  • It adds weight to their HIPAA documentation

3. Who needs to certify with HIPAA?

Though there isn’t any certifying authority for HIPAA, covered entities and business associates can consider getting their compliance with HIPAA reviewed by credible third-party professional assessors. Professional assessors test the organization’s compliance with HIPAA, issue a report/certification, and highlight gaps, vulnerabilities, and areas of improvement. 

4. Can HIPAA compliance be automated?

Yes. HIPAA compliance certification can be automated. Here, automation involves the use of technology to automate various processes like evidence collection, control monitoring, and detecting anomalies to simplify the journey to HIPAA compliance. 

5. How many controls are there in HIPAA?

HIPAA can be broken down into four main Rules. These Rules serve as guiding frameworks for enforcing specific safeguards related to PHI. They apply to all companies under HIPAA’s jurisdiction.

Gowsika

Gowsika

Gowsika is an avid reader and storyteller who untangles the knotty world of compliance and cybersecurity with a dash of charming wit! While she’s not decoding cryptic compliance jargon, she’s oceanside, melody in ears, pondering life’s big (and small) questions. Your guide through cyber jungles, with a serene soul and a sharp pen!

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