October 27, 2020

Complying With HIPAA Through Blockchain Solutions

Semyon Chyhlintsev

Europeans are, by and large, all familiar with the brand new concept on everybody’s minds – GDPR. However, it’s not the only set of regulations that has significantly affected industries like healthcare and fintech. In fact, its older brother HIPAA is just as important. So, to take a step back from constant GDPR discussion, let’s take a look at how HIPAA compliance can be achieved through blockchain solutions.

What Is HIPAA?

The scary acronym simply hides a 1996-dated act on Health Insurance Portability and Accountability. It established a series of policies and standards that determine how insurance agencies and healthcare professionals can use patient information and whether or not they can disclose it. It’s best not to mess around with it as it’s heavily regulated by the HHS and OCR.

What Does HIPAA Protect?

Compliance with HIPAA is, as you might imagine, mandatory and, sadly, quite tough. For one, the “protected health information” is pretty broad. It includes all data that could be used to trace the patient and their identity. That means even something as simple as a customer’s name not being covered up in a document could lead to major issues. And that extends to both physical and digital files, meaning that even a relatively modern database might be violating some HIPAA regulations if not worked on properly.

Remember that HIPAA concerns both those who directly work with the protected information as well as those who are partnered with them. This means that even accounting firms, IT providers, storage (physical and digital) providers, and legal teams all might fall under HIPAA’s rule.

How Blockchain Can Help With HIPAA

Though HIPAA can be quite restrictive on how information has to be processed and stored, it’s a challenge that’s easy to navigate with blockchain. For example, for now HIPAA doesn’t really have that many regulations for blockchain as the technology is fairly new. This, in turn, opens up room for blockchain solutions to be more radical than the current security measures.

The very nature of blockchain ledgers – decentralized, permission-based, safe from external interference – makes them perfect tools for processing and storing PHI. The decentralization aspect alone means that the data will never be dependent on a single institution and won’t be as easy to lose.

Also, while no technology can fully eliminate the human risk factor right now, blockchain comes pretty close. It establishes permission protocols that guarantee you won’t have inexperienced interns handling highly sensitive data.

Moreover, the structure of blockchain enables an easier way to track any mess-ups and prevent major incidents. This is particularly important as HIPAA separates fines and offenses into multiple categories and being able to mitigate any damage done is vital.

It’s also important to remember just how secure blockchain will make your system. It’s one of the easiest ways of modernizing and digitizing data management without compromising the safety of your patient files.

There are some demands that HIPAA already makes though. For one, they’ve stated that all records must have a copy in the blockchain as well as a second, backup one. However, the regulatory bodies have already expressed support for the solutions as they enable patients to take control of their info.

So, while still fresh and somewhat of a wildcard, blockchain is sure to turn into a HIPAA darling soon, offering compliance that’s flexible and easy to navigate for healthcare professionals and institutions.

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