The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance mandate is always a top of mind concern for any IT decision-maker involved in the healthcare sector. MedicineNet defines HIPAA as,
"A US law designed to provide standards to protect patients' medical records and other health information provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers."
Managing a healthcare organization that meets HIPAA compliance requirements does not have to be overly complicated. Implementing strong ITIL-based best practices for Incident, self-service and change management processes helps IT organizations provide efficient service while better tracking the critical activities that need to be managed and accounted for during an audit. Here are three ITIL processes to focus on to provide better IT service management for healthcare organizations:
Incident and Problem Management
The ITIL framework was designed to keep IT incidents and problems managed and handled quickly in order to quickly manage requests and potentially stop equipment failure. For healthcare, it's important that medical staff have quick access to digitally connected services and equipment so they can provide the best care possible for their patients without interruption from technical difficulties.
For example, if there was an incoming incident ticket on the help desk referring to an issue affecting the access of a particular patient's Electronic Healthcare Record (EHR), then it will often be escalated to a problem and dealt with immediately by the Problem management Team. After all, the issue could be persistent across multiple machines or even the entire system. For this reason, Problem Management is just as important as Incident for healthcare organizations as service failures can impact a patient's life.
Asset and Configuration Management
Implementing strong, foundational change management best practices is a vital part of keeping the IT organization up and running. This is especially important for healthcare, as critical system assets and their dependencies must be tracked and managed properly in order to avoid outages. A Configuration Management Database or CMDB provides a central repository with dependency mapping and configuration auditing that gives organizations complete visibility into the entire system infrastructure. With the CMDB and asset management, change managers can take confidence that their changes will be tracked and executed without risking total catastrophe. This also allows them to achieve compliance with strict HIPAA compliance regulations.
Change and Release Management
As mentioned earlier, system security is a huge concern for healthcare IT organizations that facilitate sensitive patient data manage and HIPAA compliance audits. And with today's culture of agile, cloud-based service desk solutions that frequently develop and deploy new system updates and bug fixes, it is imperative that organizations follow the right procedures for managing system changes and releases. ITIL best practices suggest implementing pre-defined change management workflows with CAB approvals, change calendar and automation for speedy pre-authorized changes. And with ITIL's process for Release & Deployment Management, healthcare organizations can plan, build, approve and deploy new updates and bug fixes to protect the system from potential security vulnerabilities.