HIPAA and Contractors: What You Need to Know

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that sets the standard for protecting sensitive patient healthcare information. HIPAA applies to all covered entities, including healthcare providers, health insurance companies, and healthcare clearinghouses. However, it’s important to note that HIPAA also applies to contractors who work with covered entities and have access to protected health information (PHI).

So, what do contractors need to know about HIPAA? Here are some key points to keep in mind:

1. Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) are Required

If a contractor is working with a covered entity and has access to PHI, a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) must be in place. A BAA is a legal agreement that outlines the responsibilities of the contractor in protecting PHI and complying with HIPAA regulations. Covered entities are required to have BAAs with all of their contractors who have access to PHI.

2. Contractors Must Comply with HIPAA Regulations

Contractors who work with covered entities and have access to PHI must comply with HIPAA regulations. This includes implementing appropriate administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to protect PHI and prevent unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. Contractors must also report any breaches of PHI to the covered entity in a timely manner.

3. Training is Key

All employees of contractors who have access to PHI must receive HIPAA training. This includes training on the privacy and security rules, as well as the contractor’s specific policies and procedures for protecting PHI. Training must be provided upon hire and periodically thereafter.

4. HIPAA Applies to Electronic PHI (ePHI)

HIPAA applies to all forms of PHI, including electronic PHI (ePHI). This means that contractors who work with covered entities and have access to ePHI must comply with HIPAA regulations related to electronic data security and storage.

5. OCR Investigations and Penalties Apply

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing HIPAA regulations. If a contractor violates HIPAA regulations, they may be subject to an OCR investigation and penalties. Penalties for HIPAA violations can be significant and can range from fines to criminal charges.

In summary, contractors who work with covered entities and have access to PHI must comply with HIPAA regulations. This includes having a BAA in place, implementing appropriate safeguards, providing HIPAA training, and complying with regulations related to ePHI. Failure to comply with HIPAA regulations can result in significant penalties, so it’s important for contractors to take HIPAA compliance seriously.