Pass your audits with the right combination of security measures, database solutions, and PC monitoring software.
Managing data compliance has never been easy. Between cybersecurity risks, insider threats, and increasingly strict regulations, enterprise-level organizations have found themselves struggling to keep up for years.
However, those complexities have only compounded in recent years. From the cloud-centric approach to workforce management to the pandemic-induced surge in telecommuting, it’s become increasingly difficult for enterprises to guarantee they’ll pass compliance audits.
It’s no secret that the number of people telecommuting to work has surged since the beginning of global pandemic lockdowns in early 2020. Remote and hybrid work solutions reduce commute times for employees and save enterprises up to $11,000 annually per worker.
While the advantages of working remotely are clear to many, it still comes with significant risks. HIPAA compliance remains one of the most delicate issues that healthcare organizations and advocacy groups face undergoing digital transformation.
What is HIPAA and Who Has to Follow It?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that governs how businesses and institutions handle sensitive patient data in the United States. It establishes rules for how healthcare providers, insurance companies, employers and related organizations handle private healthcare data.
HIPAA sets certain rules for the creation, storage, transmission, and maintenance of Protected health information (PHI). While hospitals and healthcare providers obviously handle PHI on an everyday basis, most enterprise employers do too.
PHI includes a range of medical and personal data that employers may process for health insurance coverage, workers’ compensation claims, and every day business:
- Patient names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
- Social security numbers, medical record numbers, and driver’s license information.
- Vehicle identifiers, device identifiers, and IP addresses.
- Biometric identifiers like fingerprints, voice recordings, and photographs.
HIPAA regulates the way businesses communicate this kind of data to healthcare organizations – Covered Entities in the official language of the law. Enterprise employers are considered Business Associates, and have to follow HIPAA regulations when sending data to covered entities.
So for example, if an employee’s name and address appears on an invoice, it’s not automatically PHI data. If the same employee’s name and address appears on a workers’ compensation claim, it is PHI data. This is because a covered entity must process that claim.
Non-compliance penalties can be severe. The fine for a single accidental penalty can range between $100 and $50,000. Willful neglect automatically results in a $50,000 fine. It’s rare for a HIPAA violation to include only a single protected record. More often it’s a collection of individual records that all add up to an enormous multi-million dollar fine.
How HIPAA Impacts Remote and Hybrid Employees
HIPAA places strict requirements on the way businesses handle employee health data. It combines identity and access management, security breach detection, data loss prevention, and many more aspects of your employee web tracking policy. Remote and hybrid workforces have to demonstrate compliance.
Without the right PC monitoring software, enterprise HIPAA compliance is difficult to manage. Consider the following scenarios:
- Remote workers may use company devices in a remote work hub filled with other people.
- Remote employees can access protected PHI data from unsecured public networks.
- Hybrid employees could use the same company device on-site and off-site, making it harder to craft and implement a consistent security policy.
- Remote employees might use company devices for personal use, and end up exposing sensitive data.
- Someone may steal a remote employees’ device, potentially putting a wealth of sensitive customer data in jeopardy.
Any one of these everyday scenarios could turn into an expensive HIPAA violation. If a database full of sensitive records is breached, the company may have to pay a six-figure fine.
If your enterprise IT team can’t find and remotely delete that data before it’s compromised, there’s little that can be done to unwind the breach. That’s why proactively preparing remote employees with the appropriate workplace monitoring and remote monitoring tools is vital to HIPAA compliance for distributed teams.
Know the Risk Factors That Predict HIPAA Violations
Remote work introduces a variety of complications to the HIPAA framework. While cybersecurity and regulatory compliance policies typically focus on technologies, the fact is that people within the organization are the most common cause of PHI breaches.
Negligent employees, ambiguous policies, and unforeseen threats all factor into potential HIPAA violations. In many cases, the only thing that stands between a malicious actor and protected health data is a vigilant, well-trained employee who understands the risks.
For example, every remote worker’s family members, roommates, or visiting guests can potentially access protected information through the employees’ laptop at home. Technological cybersecurity solutions like encryption are undoubtedly useful in this kind of situation, but cannot offer absolute protection – not while other people have physical access to the work device itself.
The Inherent Dangers of Remote Device Use
Enterprises with Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies have a significantly higher risk of HIPAA violation than those that issue work devices to employees. However, if employees are using their work devices for personal activities or on external networks, those devices are also highly susceptible to malware attacks. Secure employee internet monitoring software is a must-have security tool in this case.
If employees fail to adequately protect their account credentials, they may accidentally give up important data to outsiders. The meteoric rise in phishing and ransomware attacks over the past decade makes this a more dangerous risk with every passing day.
In almost every case, comprehensive PC monitoring software plays a vital role in preventing potential data leaks. By capturing, logging, and tracking employee computer activity, it’s possible to create detailed audit logs for any security event that occurs.
Without a secure, HIPAA-compliant workplace monitoring installed, it’s not possible to generate audit logs on user activities in response to a security event. This makes adequately preventing violations more a matter of luck than the product of robust policy.
Support HIPAA Compliance with Comprehensive PC Monitoring Software
It should be clear that while cybersecurity and compliance are both intensely people-oriented issues, technology plays a clear role facilitating success. Having a compliant company culture helps, but it can’t prevent HIPAA violations on its own.
Enterprise leaders need to augment their compliance culture with the appropriate technological solutions. Software that enables managers to monitor employee internet usage is among the most important investments an enterprise leader can make.
Choosing a HIPAA-compliant employee workplace monitoring ensures you can quickly identify violation risks and prevent them before they occur. Enterprise leaders should see this opportunity as a value-generating asset, not a typical compliance cost.
Some of the ways your workforce tracking and analysis software can help streamline compliance include:
- Improving Identity and Access Management
Simplify identity management and authentication by using your employee monitoring system for employee login and authentication. This reduces user friction and allows enterprise IT teams to streamline permissions based on user roles.
- Detecting Security Breaches
Once every employee is assigned their own unique user account, it becomes much easier to detect unusual behaviors and unauthorized activities. Your security operations team will have far deeper insight into what constitutes suspicious activity on a case-by-case basis.
- Implement Behavioral Analytics
Without the ability to track employee behavior on a wide scale, you can’t be proactive about identifying and mitigating employee-related compliance risks. Privileged user accounts get compromised too, and it’s up to you to identify when that happens so you can implement restrictions and protect your most sensitive assets.
Generating audit logs based on employee activity gives enterprise IT teams the chance to prevent catastrophic data loss due to cyberattack or employee negligence. Deploy policies, reinforced by technology. that require approval for handling sensitive PHI data to protect it against malicious actors or employee negligence.
- Providing Personalized Employee Training
Once you have clear data on how every employee interacts with sensitive PHI data, you can begin issuing training materials that are personalized to their workflows. You can do this on an individual employee basis, or deploy training materials to entire teams at once.
- Performing Internal Audits
The best way to prepare for an audit is to perform one yourself. Employee tracking technology gives you the ability to perform internal audits and identify potential compliance issues before authorities do, potentially saving the company millions of dollars in damages.
Enterprise HIPAA Compliance Simplified: Track Employee Activities and Generate Comprehensive Audit Logs
Enterprise leaders may be rightfully skeptical about adding yet another software to their team’s tech stack; but the price for non-compliance is too great a risk. In a remote or hybrid work environment, your employees play too critical a role to be left without robust compliance support.
Use employee monitoring and analytics software to catch unauthorized behaviors before they turn into data breaches. Leverage the data you gather to run internal audits and compare results between departments. The insights you gain are well worth the time and effort spent. The ability to avoid a costly, reputation-damaging HIPAA compliance breach justifies itself.
Whether your enterprise qualifies as a covered entity or a business associate, deploying best-in-class solutions for monitoring and analyzing employee activities is the more secure way to guarantee HIPAA compliance. Protect sensitive data from unauthorized usage and cultivate a relationship of trust between your customers, your employees, and your stakeholders.