An increased focus on technology has made practicing law in the modern era both more convenient and more challenging. While advances have streamlined workflows, increased productivity, and maximized efficiency, new technologies also bring concerns about information security and privacy.
Laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have tried to protect personally identifiable information, but following these regulations is no walk in the park. Remaining compliant is uniquely difficult for those in the legal profession -- especially those in the field of personal injury litigation.
Regulatory compliance is a full-time job, and to help you understand what it requires as a personal injury lawyer, we've summarized the three main challenges: Administrative, Physical, and Technical.
The administrative rules surrounding HIPAA are concerned with internal operations, specifically, the policies and procedures that govern how you are protecting patient information from clerical errors, nosy employees, and simple IT misconfigurations.
Firms must ensure that access to sensitive information is granted only to authorized personnel who are well-trained on established policies for handling, storing, or transmitting sensitive data. If your receptionist isn’t intimately acquainted with HIPAA restrictions, he or she should not be allowed to view clients’ files.
Implementing role-based access to sensitive areas can ensure that only those authorized to handle sensitive information are granted access. For example, instead of creating data access privileges for every employee, it's both safer and faster to create user categories (e.g., Attorney, paralegal, receptionist, etc.)
Furthermore, everyone on staff should know whom to consult for HIPAA-related questions. No Googling, no asking a different person every time. Ideally, this would be someone who is constantly monitoring the law for updates and guidance, like we do for our clients..
The main focus when it comes to installing technical safeguards involves the storage, access, and transmission of information. HIPAA dictates that information be kept securely and with controlled access that prevents unauthorized users from viewing or transmitting sensitive information. So while administrative safeguards keep you from giving data to untrained employees, technical safeguards are meant to protect data out from outsiders.
There aren't hard-and-fast definitions for what is required, but protecting medical records usually relies on data encryption, firewalls, and antivirus software.
It is important that systems be in place to not only control access, but also track access and alterations as well. In this way, an organization is able to determine who accessed which files, when, and what changes (if any) were made.
HIPAA defines physical safeguards as:
“Physical measures, policies, and procedures to protect a covered entity’s electronic information systems and related buildings and equipment, from natural and environmental hazards, and unauthorized intrusion.”
This includes keycard door locks and security cameras that cover your building, server room, and offices.
Lastly, you must have policies in place to track and secure mobile devices from physical tampering and theft.
Are You Compliant?
The law requires HIPAA compliance to securely safeguard your client’s most sensitive health information. While HIPAA is often thought of as applying only to healthcare organizations, law firms are also bound to protect the private medical information of their clients.
Legal Imaging is a full-service litigation support company that assists law firms just like yours with IT solutions that aid productivity and efficiency both in the office as well as the courtroom.
Our team of dedicated IT professionals will conduct a full review of your technology and related expenses and draft a customized plan to cut your costs while improving your in-house IT systems. If you’re a law firm in Mobile, Alabama, or the surrounding area, contact us today and take the first step to a more efficient office.