As senior housing operators know, technology options abound when it comes to software, hardware, devices, and infrastructure. Choosing the best IT services to bring them all together can be challenging, since you need to balance the needs of residents and staff. But there’s one more group to keep in mind when putting services in place: regulators.
Because healthcare technology is becoming so integrated with senior housing, compliance with major mandates like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is essential. This law involves national standards for electronic healthcare transactions, and is designed to increase patient safety and digital security.
Even if your senior housing business doesn’t have a healthcare component, such as assisted living or memory care, focusing on HIPAA is still important, since health information may be routed through the business’ systems.
Here are three reasons why HIPAA compliance matters when it comes to putting IT services in place:
Although HIPAA is a top consideration in medical settings like hospitals and clinics, privacy is just as important in a senior housing business. Often, the data that you collect on residents will included Protected Health Information (PHI) — for example, you may need to know about food allergies, medication schedules, fall risk levels, family caregiver contact info and health insurance details in the case of an emergency.
Much of this type of data falls under HIPAA regulations, even if you’re not providing care directly. Having IT services that can lock down PHI through privacy controls is necessary for staying within the regulations. If the data is not managed properly through IT, any info that is handled inappropriately will fall under the classification of a data breach. That means you’ll have to report the exposure not only to the Department of Health and Human Services, but also to residents and the general public — an announcement that can hurt the reputation of any senior living business, no matter how minor the breach might be.
Having HIPAA compliance as a main directive for your IT services can provide a framework for what type of technology and infrastructure you need. For example, you can eliminate any older devices that don’t have the security measures necessary for compliance standards.
HIPAA allows you to focus on what’s truly important — the safety and privacy of your residents — rather than get caught up in trying to implement the latest and greatest technology that may not be appropriate for your business. Subsequently, you can build an effective IT infrastructure that’s both compliant and scalable.
Even if a senior housing business doesn’t have a dedicated healthcare component now, what about 10 years from now? Or even five years from now? The landscape for senior living is changing rapidly — including many mergers and acquisitions — and businesses need to think about potential expansion areas in the near future. For many, that’s likely to involve at least some level of care, even if it’s just implementing fall prevention technologies.
Putting HIPAA-compliant IT services into place now can be useful for future-proofing a technology setup, and allow for more seamless expansion into multiple care models when the time comes. Healthcare IT consultants can help you choose the best solutions, including infrastructure, networking, applications, data center hosting and managed services.