The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act was passed back in 1996 to ensure that patient information was protected and made accessible given the rapid proliferation of new technology in the medical sector. Although it has been around for nearly two decades, many health care providers are still struggling to get a handle on the act's compliance requirements and oversight, while this has been further confounded by even broader-reaching technologies.

Any entity that is covered by the regulatory compliance framework must ensure that it is following best practices in real time, from email to general data management and information governance. Even slight slip-ups or issues in the management of regulation demands can lead to significant fines, penalties and sanctions - or worse, a major data breach that compromises patient records and an organization's stature in the market.

Mercury rising
InformationWeek recently reported that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has seen a sharp increase in the number of HIPAA complaints it received since last year. According to the news provider, in only the first five months of 2014, HHS saw more than 20 percent rise in the number of complaints related to HIPAA, clocking in at nearly 112,000.

For some perspective, there were more than 96,000 complaints received in the first five months of 2013, while the substance behind this year's issues seem to be a bit more serious than in prior time periods. The source explained that roughly 14 percent of the complaints reviewed by HHS did not require any type of action, meaning that a large majority of the issues were at least somewhat substantiated.

Finally, InformationWeek noted that many health care providers have struggled with the release and authorization of patient record disclosures, while others have not properly handled secure storage of data.

Keeping matters comprehensive
One of the most important aspects of HIPAA compliance is keeping a close eye on all communications and technologies in the organization. When companies fail to monitor the entirety of covered operations and technologies, problems will almost always begin to arise.

Working with a trusted provider of email encryption and data center services, health care providers can rest assured that their vendor-provided solutions will be aligned with the compliance requirements under HIPAA. Centralization of management and oversight is critical for long-term adherence to security, privacy and portability best practices.