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Blog > How to Get HIPAA Certified: Duration and Requirements

How to Get HIPAA Certified: Duration and Requirements

VComply Editorial Team
June 6, 2024
5 minutes

HIPAA compliance certification is basically a green signal that a covered entity (healthcare provider or business associate) has successfully completed a third-party HIPAA compliance program. This further proves that the covered entity was HIPAA-compliant at the time of completion. After that, the HIPAA certification doesn’t serve as a guarantee of compliance.

A HIPAA certification proves a healthcare provider’s commitment to meeting and protecting the standards of privacy, security and breach notification rules under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It comes with an assessment process to verify compliance with the HIPAA regulations.

But does earning a certification offer any benefits? Yes! It could offer several benefits such as:

  • Earning the trust of patients and stakeholders through your proactive efforts to safeguard sensitive data.
  • Reducing risks related to HIPAA violations and potential fines.
  • Giving a competitive edge by showing a commitment to data security.

HIPAA compliance certification is basically a green signal that a covered entity (healthcare provider or business associate) has successfully completed a third-party HIPAA compliance program. This further proves that the covered entity was HIPAA-compliant at the time of completion. After that, the HIPAA certification doesn’t serve as a guarantee of compliance.

What does HIPAA Compliance do?

HIPAA protects Protected Health Information (PHI), which comes with any individually identifiable information related to a patient’s health. It keeps PHI safe from unauthorized access and security breaches, maintaining privacy and trust. The root of HIPAA compliance is based on these three key rules:

  • Privacy Rule: Defines how covered entities (healthcare providers, health plans, and clearinghouses) must use and disclose PHI.
  • Security Rule: Establishes safeguards to protect the electronic storage and transmission of PHI.
  • Breach Notification Rule: Instructs specific procedures for notifying patients and authorities in case of a PHI breach.

Quick Fact:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces HIPAA regulations. Compliance requires the implementation of strong security measures, including network, physical, and process controls.

HIPAA compliance also helps with the following:

  • Promotes Strong Security Measures

Compliance needs robust network, physical, and process security to protect PHI, including firewalls, secure access controls, and employee training.

  • Builds Trust and Blocks Risks

Achieving HIPAA compliance means a commitment to data protection, reducing risks of breaches and helps strengthen trust with patients and stakeholders.

  • Reduces Deal Frictions and Improves Business Opportunities

Compliance aids in smoother business transactions and partnerships, checking necessary data protection measures are in place.

  • Improves Organizational Efficiency

Standardized processes and advanced security technologies amp up operational efficiency and the quality of patient care.

  • Continuous Compliance and Improvement

Ongoing monitoring and updates help organizations adapt to changing regulations and rising threats, maintaining strong PHI protection.

  • Automated Tools

Automation smoothens compliance tasks, giving real-time insights, managing vendor relationships, and making sure of staff training on HIPAA requirements.

Also, one of the best things about seeking a HIPAA accreditation is, it helps businesses to follow the best privacy practices and use the administrative, technical, and physical safeguards outlined in the HIPAA Security Rule.

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Why HIPAA Certification is Essential

HIPAA accreditation is essential for healthcare organizations on multiple counts. The no.1 reason for getting certified is that, to earn an accreditation, organizations will have to follow the best privacy practices and implement the administrative, technical, and physical safeguards of the HIPAA Security Rule. This will help reduce the chances of HIPAA violations and data breaches – leading to less patient complaints and OCR investigations.

Failure to achieve HIPAA certification can result in severe legal consequences, including fines and penalties. 

Let’s look at the five reasons (or perks) why HIPAA certification is mandatory:

  1. For Legal Compliance

Achieving HIPAA certification means that healthcare organizations comply with federal regulations, avoiding legal repercussions such as fines and penalties from the U.S. Office of Civil Rights.

  1. Protects Patient Data

Certification sees that appropriate measures are in place to protect sensitive patient health information (PHI) from breaches and unauthorized access, maintaining patient privacy and trust.

  1. Boosts Reputation

Being HIPAA certified shows a commitment to data security and privacy, uplifting the organization’s reputation among patients, partners, and stakeholders, and fostering greater trust and confidence.

  1. Lowers Risk of Data Breaches

With HIPAA certification, organizations apply strong security practices, bringing down the risk of data breaches and the resulting expenses, including financial losses and damage to reputation.

  1. Smoothens Operations and Efficiency

Certification processes help standardize security practices and procedures, leading to more efficient operations and improved management of patient data, ultimately sprucing up the quality of care.

HIPAA certification also offers the following perks for healthcare organizations:

  • Knowledge of compliance status: Gives a clear picture of how strictly an organization is sticking to HIPAA regulations.
  • Demonstrated compliance: Shows proactive efforts to stakeholders like business partners or regulatory bodies.
  • Reduced deal friction: Eases negotiations with third parties through a standalone assessment.
  • Better documentation: Makes sure that extensive policies and procedures are in place for handling PHI.

If a violation takes place in spite of earning accreditation and it ends up in an OCR investigation, having a HIPAA compliance certificate proves that “reasonable care to abide by the HIPAA Rules” was taken. The violation penalty can range between a Tier 1 violation (minimum penalty per violation $100) and a Tier 2 violation (minimum penalty per violation $1000).

For Business Associates, and Covered Entities acting as Business Associates, HIPAA certification shows a commitment to compliance, making the services of the organization more charming and reducing the due diligence needed before entering into a Business Associate Agreement with a Covered Entity.

Who Needs to be HIPAA Certified?

Entities refer to the organizations and individuals responsible for protecting sensitive health information. They fall into four main sections:

  • Healthcare Providers: Any medical caregiver who electronically transmits information for specific transactions is considered a covered entity.
  • Health Plans: This broad category includes health, dental, vision, and prescription drug insurers. It also encompasses Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Medicare, Medicaid, and other government and church-sponsored health plans. 
  • Healthcare Clearinghouses: They are covered by the regulation because they convert non-standard medical information into a standardized format. Also, they handle sensitive information when delivering processing services to a provider.
  • Business Associates: These are individuals or organizations that use or disclose identifiable health information to do functions or services for a covered entity.

How to Become HIPAA Certified: Duration and Requirements

The duration to achieve HIPAA certification depends on several factors, including:

  • The organization’s size
  • The complexity of its operations
  • The depth of the certification program

Usually, the process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Smaller organizations with straightforward processes may complete the training more quickly, while larger entities with more complex systems may take more time. Additionally, continuous compliance efforts and regular updates are key to maintain certification status, as HIPAA compliance is an ongoing process.

The process to become HIPAA certified consists of many key steps for making you well-versed in the regulations. Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Understand HIPAA Rules: You have to get familiar with the privacy and security rules because they set the standard for how PHI should be used and protected. Understanding them will serve you with the foundational knowledge needed for certification.
  1. Complete the Training: Enroll in the chosen program and complete the training modules. These modules will cover various aspects, including privacy, security, and compliance. Some offer interactive sessions, case studies, and quizzes to test your understanding.
  1. Pass the Written Exam: After finishing the training, you will need to pass a written test conducted by HHS. It will assess your understanding of the privacy and security rules, as well as other requirements. A passing score is usually required to earn the certificate.
  1. Receive Certification: Upon successful completion of the accredited program and passing the written exam, you will be awarded a certificate, which is proof of your expertise in handling PHI and compliance with regulations.
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Are There Any Requirements for HIPAA Certification?

Yes. Like every important certifications, HIPAA certification depends on fulfilling three requirements, which are – administrative, physical, and technical safeguards. To fully comply with HIPAA regulations, these safeguards must be met alongside the provisions in the Security and Breach Notification Rules.

Here are the three HIPAA certification requirements to follow:

1. Certification of Covered Entities

As a covered entity under HIPAA, you must adhere to specific rules to protect the privacy and security of health information and grant individuals certain rights regarding their health data. For HIPAA certification, covered entities must:

  • Comply with physical, technical, and administrative safeguards.
  • Adhere to the Security Rule, which includes physical site audits, asset and device audits, and IT risk analysis questionnaires.
  • Develop remediation plans to address gaps identified in assessments, reducing criminal penalties.
  • Implement policies and procedures to monitor HIPAA compliance.
  • Provide HIPAA certification training for employees.
  • Maintain updated and detailed HIPAA documentation.
  • Manage business associate agreements and conduct due diligence.
  • Establish incident management procedures.

2. Certification of Business Associates

Business associates must meet similar HIPAA certification requirements as covered entities, customized based on their services. Key requirements include:

  • Implementing HIPAA security and awareness training for all workforce members, not just those providing services to covered entities.
  • Undergoing third-party audits to assure covered entities that their services, products, and policies are HIPAA-certified.

VComply – an intuitive cloud-based GRC management software helps businesses scale their compliance programs with a pre-built framework library, common control mapping, automated workflows, real-time alerts, and super smooth evidence management. 

3. Certification of Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers need a deeper understanding of HIPAA regulations and violations due to their direct interaction with patients. Their HIPAA training must cover the frequently violated standards, including:

  • Patients’ rights.
  • Minimum necessary standard.
  • Permissible uses and disclosures of PHI.

HIPAA-compliant softwares like VComply can help businesses automate compliance processes, such as risk assessments and audits, and give secure ways to store and transfer patient data. With features such as policy creation, evidence management, and workflow automation, VComply can help healthcare providers set the ground strong for a sturdy HIPAA compliance program.


What Types of Data Does HIPAA Protect?

HIPAA protects sensitive patient information, including personal identification data, medical records, insurance information, billing, and payment data. This protection applies to both written and electronic formats, making sure of confidentiality and security throughout healthcare and related entities.

How Long Does HIPAA Certification Last?

HIPAA certification only shows an organization’s compliance at the time of assessment. In spite of this, all related documentation should be kept for at least six years.

Why is HIPAA Certification Important?

HIPAA certification is important for covered entities and business associates because:

  • It gives a clear understanding of their compliance status.
  • It gives a proactive approach to HIPAA, which is useful during audits.
  • It helps them stand out from competitors by showing a commitment to compliance.
  • It improves the credibility of their HIPAA documentation.

Who Needs to Certify with HIPAA?

Although there is no official certifying authority for HIPAA, covered entities and business associates can have their compliance reviewed by reputable third-party assessors. These professionals assess compliance, issue certifications or reports, and identify gaps and areas for improvement.

Can HIPAA Compliance Be Automated?

Yes, HIPAA compliance can be automated. Automation involves using technology to streamline processes like evidence collection, control monitoring, and anomaly detection, making compliance easier to achieve.

How Many Controls Are There in HIPAA?

HIPAA is divided into four main rules, which provide frameworks for specific safeguards related to PHI. These rules apply to all entities covered by HIPAA regulations.