HIPAA physical safeguards rules

High-tech cybersecurity protection is important for businesses in any industry, with the medical field being one of the most demanding when it comes to government regulation and security standards. These security requirements are outlined in HIPAA Security and Privacy Rules and organizations that fail to comply with these rules can face serious fines and penalties.

What are HIPAA physical safeguards?

In addition to requirements for cybersecurity measures, healthcare providers and medical organizations have to follow HIPAA rules for physical safeguards. The HIPAA rules divide physical safeguards into two different areas: facility access and control and security measures for devices and workstations.

Facility access control under HIPAA safeguards rules

HIPAA physical safeguards requirements are very broad since they are designed to be applicable to a wide variety of facilities. Essentially, the rules require organizations to limit physical access to their facilities so that only authorized personnel is allowed to access them. This rule can be relatively simple or very difficult to achieve for different organizations depending on their nature. For instance, hospitals usually have patients and visitors present on the premises 24/7 with their movements mostly unhindered and unsupervised. This presents a challenge for meeting the facility access control part of the HIPAA rules since access to facilities can’t be fully restricted. This is why in this scenario it’s crucial to put robust security and surveillance protocols in place and hire well-trained security staff.

On the other hand, labs and similar facilities don’t usually have visitors on-premises but instead, they store large amounts of confidential patient information. In this scenario, access to devices used to store and access this data needs to be strictly regulated.

HIPAA physical safeguard rules for devices and workstations

In medical organizations patient information is usually accessed using computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices. HIPAA rules require strict security protocols for access to these devices and their movement within the facility or between different locations.

Device access control in medical organizations

HIPAA rules require each organization that handles confidential medical information to have strict policies and procedures when it comes to the workstation and device access. All devices and workstations need to be password-protected and located in a place where only authorized personnel can access them. Additionally, each employee should only have access to the information that’s necessary for them to perform their job.

Device and media movement according to HIPAA rules

Each HIPAA-compliant organization should take extra care when moving devices. For instance, if the move is handled by a third-party company, Business Associate agreements outlining all the shipping requirements need to be signed and the organization needs to make sure that all devices arrive at their destination without any signs of tampering.

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    Vitaly is a principal consultant at Hackcontrol as wall as aa business and IT thought leader. He has over 15 years of experience in consulting, account management and is a specialist in cybersecurity.