2024 Compliance Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Potential Changes to HIPAA

HIPAA Changes 2024

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is constantly in flux. New regulations and updates are continuously introduced, keeping healthcare entities and business associates on their toes. As we know, those who fail to comply must pay Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) fines and risk jeopardizing their reputations.

Medical practices and businesses that stay informed and adopt certain best practices can continue to provide quality healthcare services while safeguarding patient confidentiality.

In 2024, expect the introduction of further HIPAA regulations, most of which relate to ever-evolving technologies, the modernization of data management, and the consequences of living in an increasingly interconnected digital world.

Let’s closely examine some of the upcoming HIPAA changes for 2024.

Changes to HIPAA Privacy Rule Go Into Effect

The proposed HIPAA Privacy Rule changes—a summary of which can be found in FormDr’s 2023 compliance guide—were first published in the Federal Register on January 21, 2021. However, due to their far-reaching effects, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) extended the deadline for submitting comments multiple times.

As a result, The Final Rule has not been issued yet and will likely be officially enforced in 2024. Before they come into effect, healthcare providers must implement processes to address these changes and make it easier for patients to exercise their rights.

Among the new changes mandated by the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) are the easing of restrictions on PHI disclosures and the strengthening of patient rights when it comes to accessing PHI. The updates also affect associated costs and time frames in which medical records must be provided.

Proposed Changes 2024

Since 2013, there have been very few changes to the HIPAA Security Rule. But this will change in the coming year.

In December 2023, the HSS published a paper that outlined a framework to address cybersecurity threats and protect patient safety. The growing threat of cyberattacks on electronic health records and other sensitive data necessitates this new strategy.

The increasing adoption of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies in healthcare is also expected to pose a risk to patient privacy, as does the use of cloud computing technologies.

To face these challenges in 2024, healthcare entities must implement measures to protect sensitive information against these new threats. This includes a mix of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards, as outlined below:

  • Administrative: Risk management processes, security awareness, and training.
  • Physical: Workstation security and facility access control. 
  • Technical: Audit control, access control, and encryption.

Penalties for non-compliance could range from disbarment from Medicare and Medicaid programs to fines imposed by the Office of Civil Rights.

Changes to HIPAA Breach Notification Requirements, 2024

The HIPAA’s Breach Notification Rule outlines crucial information related to detecting and dealing with data breaches. It sets timelines for notifying individuals and the HHS in case of a breach, as well as details about improper and encrypted disclosures.

In 2024, HIPAA updates are expected to strengthen these requirements, mandating that all entities have a comprehensive plan to identify, investigate, and report any breaches to the HHS and all unauthorized PHI disclosures to patients.

It also requires organizations to maintain meticulous records of breach assessments, notifications, and corrective actions taken.

How to Navigate Changes to HIPAA in 2024

Healthcare entities and business associates looking to navigate the complicated HIPAA regulations must constantly adapt and create new processes.

In 2024, these strategies must prioritize the following:

  • Mitigating patient information threats through effective risk assessment and management procedures. Some safeguards that could be implemented include data security measures, such as data encryption or access controls.
  • Developing robust strategies to deal with breaches and other security lapses. This includes promptly reporting unauthorized PHI disclosures to patients, the HHS, and, in extreme cases, the local media.
  • Developing training and awareness programs for all employees and stakeholders on the latest HIPAA policies and compliance guidelines.
  • Creating clear procedures for patients to exercise their rights. 
  • Re-evaluating all business partners to determine if their operations are HIPAA compliant.

Developing compliance checklists and audit processes requires immense knowledge of shifting regulations. It is important to create a process to stay up to date on the latest policies, build more secure environments, and ensure your continued HIPAA compliance.

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