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How Do I Become a HIPAA Compliance Officer?

The world of risk assessment is complex. Within healthcare, HIPAA-compliant security officers are critical to ensuring that the healthcare industry aligns with federal regulations.

For those passionate about protecting an individual’s privacy and the healthcare organization as a whole, the career path of HIPAA compliance officers may be your calling. If so, how do you get there?

Start at Seattle University School of Law. Our Master of Legal Studies (MLS) program in Compliance and Risk Management trains our students in the legal analysis and methods that facilitate career advancement.

Become a HIPAA Compliance Officer

Compliance Training

The path to becoming a compliance officer, regardless of what you specialize in, begins with education. Generally, compliance officers obtain their bachelor’s degree. Knowing you want to go into compliance early on helps direct your studies out of high school. But if you’re only just deciding to pursue your compliance career now, don’t worry. We can help.

There are many options for your bachelor’s degree. If you know where you want to specialize as a compliance officer, you can choose a degree that reflects that specialization. Majors such as legal studies, finance, and management are popular options with plenty of career applications. Some schools, like SU, have a multi-use Risk Management bachelor’s degree. Your bachelor’s degree can set you up for your master’s and prepare you for future certifications. 

While a master’s degree is not mandatory for this field, it holds several advantages. A master’s degree allows you to specialize in the type of compliance you want to pursue, such as cybersecurity, health, or finance. Additionally, the degree can qualify you for higher-paying or more senior roles at companies.

Certified HIPAA Compliance Officer

HIPPA was created in 1992. According to the CDC, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is, “a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the HIPAA Privacy Rule to implement the requirements of HIPAA.”

HIPAA privacy officers guarantee that companies and organizations that have access to health information can keep it secure. They ensure that this highly sensitive information is protected, a particularly hot-button contemporary issue. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the HIPAA Rules apply to covered entities and business associates. This includes a healthcare provider, such as a doctor or pharmacy; a health plan, such as Medicaid; or a healthcare clearinghouse, which processes nonstandard health information they receive from another entity. Individuals, organizations, and agencies that meet the definition of a covered entity under HIPAA must comply with the requirements to protect the privacy and security of health information and must provide individuals with certain rights concerning their health information.

Earning Your Certification

Focusing on healthcare compliance necessitates specialized training and certification required under HIPAA. HIPAA compliance officers take responsibility for the full compliance and protection of health information within a company. HIPAA training provides them with these skills.

Organizations that deal with protected health information have two separate regulations they need to follow: HIPAA Privacy and HIPAA Security. HIPAA privacy keeps health information safe from a people, contractual, and administrative standpoint. For example, if other doctors or lawyers are requesting medical records for a case, HIPAA Security handles keeping health information safe in its electronic form. Medical records contain extremely sensitive and personal information that people don’t want to fall into the hands of others; HIPAA privacy and security together keep sensitive information safe both in person and online.

Companies must have awareness training for employees who have access to protected health information. Processes and controls must be in place. Finally, there must be a compliance officer that takes responsibility for HIPAA at that organization. That compliance officer oversees training, policy development, and decision-making within the organization. And that compliance officer may one day be you.

Getting HIPAA certified is not the end. The world of compliance is heavily regulated and constantly shifting. Advances in technology mean compliance officers must be prepared for security rule requirements that grow as time passes. HIPAA-certified compliance officers should undergo refresher trainings to ensure that they are up-to-date with all HIPAA regulations

How Seattle University Can Help

Seattle University’s MLS program in Compliance and Risk Management that includes a healthcare compliance focus. Our program opens the door to career paths in leading compliance efforts for a hospital or care facility by overseeing training, policy development, and decision-making.

Students graduate prepared to lead compliance efforts in any organization, regardless of industry. As if all of the above reasons weren’t enough to convince you of its value, the program itself is fully online.

Interested in becoming a HIPAA compliance officer? Contact our admissions office today to get started.

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