The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1966 (HIPAA) was enacted to protect patient’s data privacy. With this law, healthcare organizations such as health providers and business associates aren’t allowed to share or disclose a patient’s information without the person’s knowledge and consent. This is a requirement for organizations to meet the national standard security rule.
As healthcare organizations try to meet the standards outlined in the HIPAA policy, the main thing being asked is how you become HIPAA compliant. One confusing aspect about compliance is whether getting a HIPAA certification makes you compliant. Does this mean you’re compliant with the policies stated in the security rule?
The Difference Between HIPAA Certification and Compliance
HIPAA certification and HIPAA compliance are different in many ways. Getting certification means you’ve undergone the necessary training and courses to allow you to implement the required data security standard in your organization. A private organization always offers the certification after the completion of the HIPAA courses. You can also get a certification when a third party assesses your compliance system against the national required standard.
In contrast, HIPAA compliance means you adhere to the security standards outlined in the act to protect the patients’ data. From the definition, you can get the HIPAA certification and still not be compliant. After completing the training, you may fail to implement it in your organization.
Another difference is that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requires healthcare organizations to be HIPAA compliant always whether they have a certification or not. However, there’s no clear rule compelling an organization to get certified. Certification isn’t a requirement by the law, but compliance is.
After getting a certification, the HHS can still probe your organization for non-compliance cases as the department doesn’t recognize any private certification. If you’re found to be non-compliant with the HIPAA regulations, you’ll face legal charges.
Moreover, HIPAA certification can be given to an employee or an organization. If you train some or all of your employees and get certifications, they can help your organization be compliant. However, employees can’t be regarded as HIPAA compliant because they don’t have a security system that can be assessed, but a company does.
So, the bottom line is, HIPAA compliance isn’t an option for any healthcare provider. You need to be compliant always. According to the HHS department, HIPAA certification isn’t mandatory, and your organization can do without it.
Which Is Important?
After seeing the difference between HIPAA certification and compliance, you may wonder which among the two is important for your business. First, being compliant is crucial for your business.
HIPAA compliance isn’t just significant in protecting healthcare data but also to your business. If your organization is assessed and found for non-compliance, you may face legal charges such as fines and revoking licenses. Also, being HIPAA compliant can help customers trust your organization more and be willing to engage with it. If customers lose their trust in your organization, then you lose your business.
What about HIPAA certification? Of what benefits can the certification be to your organization if HHS doesn’t recognize it? Even though certification isn’t mandatory or recognizable, it has several benefits like the ones listed below:
- Training your employees makes it easy to implement the policies and procedures to make your organization HIPAA compliant. It becomes easy for your organization to prove it’s compliant during an HHS assessment with more trained personnel.
- Getting a third-party certification means your organization has been assessed against a standard set of policies outlined by the act and corrections made on areas below the required standard. Even though the HHS won’t recognize the seal or the certification, it reduces the risk of non-compliance cases.
- Another advantage of HIPAA certification and training is that your employees understand the practices that make the organization non-compliant. Some of the cases arise from employees’ lack of training and understanding of the problematic areas. However, completion of the certification can help document policies and procedures employees can refer to at any time regarding data privacy.
So, both HIPAA compliance and HIPAA certification are essential to your organization. You should be compliant at all times, and the certification can help you achieve that.
While compliance and certification may be used interchangeably by many people, they aren’t the same thing. As discussed, compliance is mandatory and should always be observed while certification isn’t. Certifications are awarded by numerous institutions that offer HIPAA training or third-party assessment while compliance adheres to the national security standards on data privacy.
Even with the difference, certification can help you be compliant, so you should consider pursuing it.