Every hospital and clinic in the US is required to conform to the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The Act oversees the security, protection, and privacy of confidential company data. Conformance to the rules is important for all healthcare facilities otherwise it can result in fines and penalties.
In this article, you will learn more about HIPAA rules, particularly those concerning the use of digital signatures.
The HIPAA Act was introduced in 1996 to ensure confidentiality of patient information. The introduction of the legislation has resulted in a lot of changes in the healthcare sector. Healthcare companies had adopted technologies that allowed privacy and security of personal health-related information.
Personal data in the context of the HIPAA refers to any information that relates to a patient's health condition, mental or physical disorder, and payments for any type of care and treatment. All the information that is included in patient's record is generally confidential.
When the patient information is in the digital format, it's termed as electronic protected health information (e-PHI). The HIPAA requires standardizing digital data management in order to improve the efficiency and maintain the confidentiality of patient health information.
While the HIPAA has not set any rules regarding electronic signature, there are certain things that must be complied with in order to ensure the patient privacy of health information.
The foremost requirement when using digital signature is that it should allow authentication of the user. The person who has entered into an agreement with the healthcare provider should be verifiable. Electronic signatures with audit trail feature to ensure that the identification of the signing parties is validated.
Another important requirement for a digital document to be considered in accordanceto the HIPAA rules is that the digital signature must comply with local legislations. In the US, the relevant legislations include the ESIGN act and the UETA. The relevant electronic signature law in the EU region includes the eIDAS. Moreover, in Canada PIPEDA specifies rules regarding electronic signatures.
Non-repudiation is another important requirement for compliance with HIPAA rules. This is important to ensure that the signatory canny deny having signed a document. Electronic signatures that conform to this rule have an audit trail feature. This feature also helps in organizing digital documents as all the documents are time stamped.
Lastly, there should be message integrity to conform to the HIPAA Security Rule. The digital signature cannot be tampered easily. It's important to ensure the integrity of data both at rest and in transit. When carrying out a HIPAA audit, it's important to verify the integrity of the electronically signed document.
Any violation of the HIPAA can be costly for a healthcare company. That's why it's important to select a digital signature service that has a high-security feature. The signature software should prevent tampering of a document and contain an audit trail feature with time and date stamp.