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ITSM Practices Play Vital Role in HIPAA Compliance

08/22/2014 by: The SunView Team

The HIPAA and HITECH guidelines have been around for a while, both having a significant impact on how hospitals and other healthcare stakeholder organizations operate. However, like many other regulatory guidelines, these laws mandate the results that healthcare companies need to achieve, not always how they need to get there.

This results in plenty of confusion and uncertainty about the technological solutions that are necessary to ensure compliance. According to a recent HealthIT Security report, policies and procedures often end up playing a critical role in ensuring IT teams are prepared to maintain compliance with regulatory standards.

Effective IT service management investments enable organizations to not only establish effective IT policies and procedures, but enforce them through every phase of operations. As such, a good service management strategy plays a key role in helping hospitals comply with industry regulations.

Understanding the Role of Processes and Policies in HIPAA Compliance
Data can be compromised in a variety of ways, and most do not involve a hacker. A change error can cause information to be sent to a public database instead of a private one. An application release malfunction can cause glitches in how apps present data, causing sensitive information to be made available to the public. Even clicking the wrong button during a change task has been known to cause servers and storage systems to shut down, leading to a time-consuming outage when data is unavailable and a rapid reboot process that can be fraught with error. There is plenty of risk in IT, and the report pointed out that establishing clear policies and procedures that limit risk is critical when trying to comply with healthcare regulations.

According to the news source, creating effective processes and policies needs to go beyond the surface level. Finding success in this area involves making sure operational expectations are communicated clearly through every phase of IT operations. This begins with user-facing applications and services, but policies and processes must also be clearly established to govern how IT teams handle background infrastructure as well. Change is central in this situation.

The report explained that companies need to not just build an effective process framework and put policies in place, they also need to enforce them. Self auditing is one of the best ways to do this, and monitoring change tasks is critical in finding success. Regularly evaluating change gives organizations an opportunity to assess processes involved in any change task and make sure proper processes and procedures are followed. Furthermore, this self auditing can reveal potential problems before they actually end up leading to a regulatory breach, avoiding heavy fines.

Using Change Management to Support HIPAA Compliance
Investing in a change management platform enables IT teams to effectively monitor change, develop a system for authorizations and coordinate complex operations between multiple user groups. A change management solutions helps to eliminate human error by integrating process strategies and policies into change functions, allowing users to remain cognizant of all of the issues they have to think about when performing change. At the same time, organizations can also establish authorizations before changes finalize or at key stages of the change to make sure a second set of eyes view the task.

Change management tools also work well alongside change advisory boards. A CAB brings together leaders from a variety of departments to help align changes with both technical and operational needs. In a hospital, this could mean having administrators, technology leaders and clinical staff members collaborate to prioritize changes in a way that balances the needs of each stakeholder group.

A good change management platform backed by a CAB can play a vital role in enabling the process and policy excellence needed to avoid regulatory problems in healthcare.