HIPAA-compliance Solution Provides Much-needed Peace of Mind

By

How Abyde’s simplified solution gave Comprehensive Dental Care “one less thing to worry about” and much-needed “peace of mind” in their complete HIPAA-compliance program.

“Solved a Problem We Didn’t Even Know We Had”

For many practice owners and managers, it’s common for HIPAA compliance to become a “secondary thought” when added to the quite extensive list of other roles and responsibilities.While many independent providers find it often infeasible to dedicate a full-time position solely focused on HIPAA privacy and security, the recent rise in data breaches and government enforcement has made prioritizing compliance a must. So when it came to finding much needed “peace of mind” for practice owner and manager of Comprehensive Dental Care, Florida Dental Association (FDA) member Dr. Oscar Menendez and Denise Mendendez, Abyde “solved the problem they didn’t even know they had” with a simplified approach to achieving HIPAA compliance.

As a successful practice in the dental industry for more than 35 years, Comprehensive Dental had always assumed that completing their annual HIPAA-training courses and maintaining a culture of compliance within their organization was enough to avoid the so-called “HIPAA police.” They maintained a strong focus on patient care and protecting sensitive health data, but just lacked the documentation to prove their efforts in meeting these important HIPAA standards. However, with the many legislative changes, HIPAA violations and cyber attacks that have seemed to take the health care industry by storm over the past year, they saw the increasing importance of filling in some of those small gaps that might have previously been missing.

Easy-to-Manage Compliance, Easy-to-Use Software

As most practice managers could probably attest to, Denise simply “didn’t want to manage another thing” and was looking for a solution that not only made HIPAA easy but was easy to use itself. As a member of the FDA, she was familiar with the FDA’s preferred HIPAA-compliance vendor, Abyde, and “after seeing the presentation and learning a few statistics on HIPAA laws/lawsuits,” she became “very interested in the product.” Immediately after signing up, Denise was “pleasantly surprised that Abyde did everything that they said they would do in the initial contact with the sales representative” and she was “extremely impressed with the program itself and its ease of use” and happy to find that the “setup process wasn’t very hard or time consuming” to work into her already busy schedule.

Beyond the onboarding process, Denise has found that the maintenance involved with using Abyde was a no-brainer. As new laws and patient needs continue to evolve, “practice managers get busy and don’t necessarily have the time to manage the complexities of HIPAA.” And while years ago having a lock on the cabinet that held patient records might’ve seemed like enough to keep data protected, technology and social media have “blurred the lines” between patient confidentiality and HIPAA best practices. So for Denise, “receiving emails and notifications has made keeping up with any necessary updates simple and provides assurance that nothing is being missed.”  

“One Less Thing to Worry About”

In addition to taking some of the HIPAA weight off of Denise’s shoulders, Abyde also gave practice owner, Dr. Oscar Menendez, “one less thing to worry about.” With industry-leading features including automated and engaging HIPAA training videos, he was provided confidence that each of his staff members were given the necessary education to handle patient information properly. As there is no telling when your organization may come face-to-face with a HIPAA incident, whether due to the rising risk of health care data breaches or increase in patient complaint numbers, Dr. Menendez notes that “if you do experience some type of incident, having documented proof of compliance and knowing how to address it is essential.”

While Denise emphasizes that the Abyde software solution itself is one of the “easiest I’ve ever seen or worked with,” there’s even more value beyond the uniquely better interface, including a support team of HIPAA experts that Dr. Menendez is thankful are always available ”to guide us through” any questions. Between the automated notifications, comprehensive Security Risk Analysis, HIPAA training videos and other industry leading features, Abyde provides endless benefits for health care organizations all across the country.

When looking at the time and resources that’s required to manage a complete HIPAA program in-house, having a solution that “for a small fee, keeps us up to date, compliant and more aware” has been a huge help for Comprehensive Dental Care. And the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your practice is not only compliant, but also has the documentation to prove compliance efforts is truly priceless. So, no matter if you’re a small independent dental provider or a large multi-location organization, in Dr. Menendez’s words himself, “Every provider should have Abyde — they’re crazy not to!”


Abyde is an FDA Crown Savings Endorsed Partner and the Abyde software solution is the easiest way for any sized dental practice to implement and sustain comprehensive HIPAA compliance programs. FDA members save 20% on Abyde services that help their practices meet government-mandated HIPAA standards that protect patient health information by identifying and correcting key security safeguards. For more information, visit fdaservices.com/abyde or call 800.594.0883.

Cyberattacks: Prevention May be the Cure from Ransomware

By Robert McDermott, President/CEO, iCoreConnect

Just as you wash your hands regularly so you don’t get sick, it’s critical to adopt good habits of “digital hygiene” to prevent cyberattacks on your practice. The “illness” threatening your practice is called malware. Malware is an umbrella term for any malicious software criminals use to steal your or your patients’ data.

Ransomware, a particularly sinister malware, burrows into your system and begins encrypting all your data so you can’t access it. Then a cybercriminal holds your data for ransom, demanding you pay a hefty sum of money for them to give you access to your own files.

Just like a human virus sometimes can be undetected, malware can be in your computer system long before you realize it. By the time you see symptoms, it’s too late. Cybercriminals are continually developing sophisticated methods for infecting computers and servers without you catching on. There are two primary ways malware gets into your system and holds your practice ransom.

HACKING

Hackers secretly tap into your data by exploiting weaknesses in your IT security. Outdated, unmaintained systems often make smaller, older practices particularly easy targets. Working with a proactive team of IT experts, known as managed IT services providers (MSP), is an important layer of defense against attacks. These folks can save you money, time and headaches over the long run. They detect threats early to eliminate or reduce damage well before it gets out of hand.

A particular vulnerability is how you are using email. Only use Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. for personal or non-patient specific messages. For anything beyond that, set up a fully HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based email system that protects your information whether it’s sitting in your inbox or sending to another doctor’s inbox. There are big differences between an encryption-only email for general security and a truly HIPAA-compliant email fulfilling every HIPAA security requirement. These requirements range from verifying recipient identity to making sure no email is altered.

PHISHING

Phishing occurs when a criminal tricks any employee into thinking something is a trustworthy source, then convinces them to click a corrupt link or provide sensitive information directly (like a credit card number). The attacker is preying on a lack of awareness on the part of you or a staff member. You must educate your whole team to recognize suspicious messages, links and questions to avoid falling victim. If the sender is unknown or claims to be your IT person, MSP or someone in your office yet asks you to click an unusual link, verify the email first with the actual person on your team.

No one is inherently immune from cyberattacks. Take action now by working with a qualified dental IT services provider to assess, boost and maintain your IT immune system. Work directly with your staff to understand what to look for and how to prevent these types of criminals from getting in the door. Healing from an attack is much more difficult and costly than preventing it in the first place.


iCoreConnect, an FDA Crown Savings merchant, specializes in comprehensive software that speeds up workflow for dentists. The FDA endorses these products from iCoreConnect: iCoreExchange HIPAA-compliant email and iCoreDental cloud-based practice management. FDA members receive substantial discounts on both products. Book a demo at icoreconnect.com/fda or call 888.810.7706.

Top 6 Ways to be Prepared for a HIPAA Audit

By Abyde

Let’s be real — there’s probably a few things in life we all have an “Oh, it won’t happen to me” mentality about. For many medical professionals, that may be exactly how you feel about HIPAA audits, yet HIPAA investigations are becoming more common than you might think. 

While the odds of facing a totally random HIPAA audit might not be high, they increase significantly when you factor in additional investigation triggers like data breaches, cyber attacks, and patient complaints — none of which a dental practice is immune to.

Proactively preparing for anything that might be thrown your way is imperative for your practice to have the ability to handle a HIPAA audit without the consequence of a hefty violation. Here are the top six things you should have in place before a breach, complaint or audit investigation occurs:

1. Security Risk Analysis
The first thing the OCR looks for upon investigation is a properly documented and up-to-date Security Risk Analysis. This shows that you’ve assessed your practice operations and identified any vulnerabilities — before an audit occurs. While it’s the first step of HIPAA compliance, only 17% of practices audited by the OCR met this requirement.

2. Practice-specific Policies and Procedures
Proper documentation is key for all aspects of your compliance program, including your practice-specific HIPAA policies and procedures. These policies and procedures serve as the guidelines for how protected health information (PHI) should be handled within your practice and the proper documentation is necessary to prove the expectations and standards you have set for your organization. 

3. Disaster Recovery Plan
Disasters happen, most of the time without warning. Having a disaster recovery plan in place is important to ensuring continuity of patient care and continued access to important medical records. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

4. Implement Proper Administrative, Technical and Physical Safeguards
Securing all forms of PHI with the necessary safeguards already implemented within your practice is essential to successfully meeting HIPAA requirements, and ultimately protecting your patients.

5. Staff HIPAA Training
Properly train your staff on all HIPAA privacy and security policies and procedures. This training should be ongoing to ensure that staff is staying up to date with any changes to HIPAA regulations or practice operations.

6. Business Associate Agreements
It’s important to be on the same page with everyone who has access to your patient’s secure information. Implementing the proper business associate agreements with all third-party vendors that could potentially access PHI ensures patient data is secure while also offsetting liability to business associates should they be the cause of a data breach.

There’s a lot that goes into your HIPAA program, even more than the top six items listed here, which is why it’s all the more important to have a true culture of compliance in place and a complete HIPAA program to prevent and minimize threats to your patients’ data.


Abyde is an FDA Crown Savings Endorsed Partner and the Abyde software solution is the easiest way for any sized dental practice to implement and sustain comprehensive HIPAA compliance programs. FDA members save 20% on Abyde services that help their practices meet government-mandated HIPAA standards that protect patient health information by identifying and correcting key security safeguards. Visit fdaservices.com/abyde or call 800.594.0883.

This article was originally posted on Abyde’s blog on Aug. 14, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

My EHR System Makes Me HIPAA Compliant, Right?

By Abyde

Let’s face it, in today’s digital age, it’s tough to find a medical practice that doesn’t use an electronic health records (EHR) system. Even if you were late to the game and just recently made the switch, the use of EHRs in doctors’ offices nearly doubled between 2009 and 2017, to almost 86% of providers. One of the biggest qualifications for any EHR system is that it meets all HIPAA-compliance requirements to protect the sensitive patient data held within it.

But is that where HIPAA compliance begins and ends? 

A common misconception many providers have, however, is that implementing a HIPAA-compliant EHR ensures their practice is in compliance with all standards — instead, it’s just one piece of the much larger puzzle.

Make no mistake, having a HIPAA-compliant EHR is essential. There are several safeguards that should be implemented to protect your EHR’s electronic data, such as: 

  • Having the proper technical safeguards in place to secure your online databases.
  • Having access controls such as unique logins for your EHR system limiting access to authorized individuals.
  • Encrypting all stored information within your EHR.
  • Having access logs to your EHR system in case of any breaches or audits.

While these safeguards are key, there are other HIPAA requirements that go beyond the security of your EHR software and impact your practice’s operations, physical accessibility and all technology used within the organization — including IT networks and other applications not included in your EHR software. That’s why the Security Risk Analysis’ three sections — administrative, physical and technical safeguards — are so essential to ensure every aspect of your business’ risk is assessed.

  1. First, let’s look at HIPAA-compliant operations and administrative safeguards. Much of HIPAA law applies to having the proper policies and procedures in place. This means documenting things like how your practice releases protected health information (PHI), how you complete required annual HIPAA training, how you review employee access to PHI, how you’ll apply sanctions to workforce members if violating privacy laws, and more. Most of these will address how the “business” side of your practice operates. What’s more, your policies must reflect your actual practice operations — they can’t simply be templates downloaded off the internet to meet HIPAA requirements. Administrative safeguards also should include having all contracts in place to protect your PHI, such as Business Associate Agreements with all required vendors — including your EHR provider. 
  2. Second, your physical safeguards encompass both obvious and not so obvious ways to protect your practice from harm. This means determining if you have locks on your doors (we hope this one is covered) but also how often access codes are changed, when your last fire marshal inspection was, if you use privacy screens to prevent seeing PHI on computers in use, and if your PHI is physically separated from patients to prevent unauthorized access — just to name a few. Physical security is key to showing your practice’s efforts to prevent loss or theft of PHI and goes well beyond your EHR system.
  3. Lastly, beyond your EHR, your practice has likely implemented several different technology systems and applications. These technologies carry the same risks as your EHR and need technical safeguards to ensure the privacy of PHI they store or access. From your office Wi-Fi to your cloud storage solution or server, each system must have controls to prevent unauthorized access to your PHI. In fact, the more technology you rely on, the more accessible PHI is to the wrong people. It’s not just data at rest either — sending emails containing PHI requires encryption, as does instant messaging or text messaging when it includes PHI. All these systems are gateways to your practice’s data and are essential to protect just like your EHR solution.

Even non-HIPAA experts can conclude that having a HIPAA-compliant EHR system is a no-brainer. But missing all, or even just some, of the other pieces to the puzzle puts your practice and your patients at high risk. In fact, within Abyde’s Security Risk Analysis, only 10% of the questions pertain to your EHR system. Whether with Abyde, internally, or with another vendor, it’s essential to review the other 90% of your necessary safeguards before getting slammed with a HIPAA violation. 


Abyde is an FDA Crown Savings Endorsed Partner and the Abyde software solution is the easiest way for any sized dental practice to implement and sustain comprehensive HIPAA compliance programs. FDA members save 20% on Abyde services that help their practices meet government-mandated HIPAA standards that protect patient health information by identifying and correcting key security safeguards. Visit fdaservices.com/abyde or call 800.594.0883.

This article was originally posted on Abyde’s blog on July 16, 2020. Reprinted with permission.