Fundamental Guide to Compliance Management Software

November 30, 2018   |   James Schroeder

Is your organization looking to purchase a compliance management software solution? Do you know what features and functionality to look for? ComplyAssistant’s Fundamental Guide to Compliance Management Software is your handbook for purchasing the right solution for your healthcare organization.

What is compliance management software?

In its purest definition, compliance management software is a tool that supports compliance strategy and implementation at your organization. This type of software enables you manage policies and controls that align with corporate objectives, and then map those policies and controls to various security and compliance frameworks.

Why is compliance management important for healthcare?

As you probably already know, healthcare organizations are required under HIPAA’s Privacy Rule and Security Rule to adhere to strict regulations to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected health information (ePHI). All healthcare organizations are obligated to protect their own operations and information, along with that of contracted vendors that have access to PHI.

Compliance management should be foundational to your operations

Compliance management is a critical component to a foundational approach to security and compliance in healthcare. More often than not, we see that healthcare organizations are more reactive than proactive when it comes to security and compliance. Our belief is that everything you do in healthcare is first built on a foundation of compliance process, procedures and controls. Taking this proactive approach will empower your team, and the organization as a whole, to better protect patients and their data.

EXPERT TIP

Hire and empower a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to ensure an unbiased approach to compliance management.

Complexity breeds vulnerability

For better or worse, we now live in a world of immense complexity – we are more connected than ever in this digital age. Healthcare, while still fragmented in its delivery, is striving to keep pace with the connectivity needed for more streamlined and collaborative patient care. With that comes inherent vulnerabilities. Any time a new device or technology is introduced, so is vulnerability for breach.

Not only does every healthcare organization need controls to protect itself from breach, it also has the responsibility to ensure any third-party vendors, business associates (BAs) and medical device manufacturers are also performing due diligence. A large health system could have as many as 100 business associate agreements (BAAs), all with various levels of associated risk. Pair with that several different types of security and compliance frameworks, and you have a multifaceted, intricate system that needs proper management and controls.

This is where compliance management software comes in. It would be nearly impossible – and dare we say, negligent – to attempt to manage this system manually. What you don’t want to do is manage all of that detail in Excel spreadsheets and binders. This obsolete process does not allow you to have the visibility you need into any gaps and vulnerabilities that may exist.

Compliance management software is a valuable tool that will enable healthcare organizations to have better, more informed control over their security and compliance programs.

What types of healthcare facilities should use compliance management software?

Any type of healthcare organization, regardless of size, needs a compliance management software solution to help manage privacy and security. They are all responsible for protecting PHI, and therefore must have the proper procedures and controls in place to do so.

While we recommend compliance management software for any type of organization, it is especially valuable for three types of healthcare organizations:

  1. Those with a large quantity of business associates – The volume alone can be staggering. Having a compliance management software to understand level of risk, visualize gaps in process or controls, and manage action plans for all of your BAs will make the process more organized and efficient.
EXPERT TIP

Read our Fundamental Guide to Vendor Risk Management for more on how to manage and mitigate risk from third-party vendors and business associates.

  1. Those with high degrees of operational complexity – If your organization is in acquisition mode, or has been through recent operational changes, consider a compliance management software to help manage across a diverse healthcare system. This can help with standardization of process and culture change throughout the organization.
  2. Those who lack internal expertise on managing compliance – Some providers, especially physician practices, long-term care facilities, and the like, lack in-house expertise to manage compliance process and controls. An easy-to-use compliance management software can be a valued resource when internal resources are not available.

What features should you look for when purchasing a software?

How do you know what features and functionality are most important in a compliance management software solution? Use this handy checklist as a guide for evaluating software that meets the needs of your organization

EXPERT TIP

ComplyAssistant’s software ticks every box on this checklist!

Feature / Functionality

Framework-agnostic

The compliance management software you choose should be able to handle any security framework, including HIPAA, NIST, HITRUST and more, all in the same space. This allows for more efficient management across frameworks.

Cloud-based

You shouldn’t have to maintain any on-premise equipment or technology. Cloud-based solutions can quickly update and release new functionality, all without you or your team needing to get involved.

Able to handle any volume

From the smallest, most simple compliance program, to the most complex, the compliance management software you choose should be able to handle any volume level. Don’t get stuck with a software that can’t handle the volume you need.

Manages both internal and external assessments and audits

Look for the ability to create location-based assessments, and use pre-packaged or customized third-party audits directly in the software.

Mobile auditing

Look for secure mobile capability that allows for easier, faster walkthroughs and audits.

Contract and document management

For standardization across your organization, look for solution that allows you to manage all vendor contracts and other evidentiary documents directly in the software.

Risk management

An important feature for standardization, look for capability to monitor every location in your organization, record risk levels, assign risk mitigation tasks and document processes.

Incident management

When there is a security incident, you’ll want to carefully document all related information. The compliance management software you choose should have an incident management module to ensure your organization follows a standard process each time.

Task management

Look for team collaboration functionality that allows you to manage compliance activity, policies, contracts and project tasks.

Project management

Look for functionality that allows you to build project templates or use pre-built templates to manage tasks and timing for compliance initiatives.

Vendor management

Look for pre-defined or custom external assessments in the software to easily audit your third-party vendors and business associates.

Reporting and analytics

Make sure the compliance management software you choose includes a reporting feature to help you quickly view overdue and pending tasks, charts of risk and compliance levels, and more.

Notifications and alerts

Look for the capability to receive automatic, real-time email notifications when a compliance issue needs to be addressed.

Consulting and ongoing support

Look for a true partner for your compliance management strategy, not just a software vendor who will install the technology and leave you behind.

What are common roadblocks to implementing compliance management software?

As with any new process or technology, assess your organization to determine if you are operationally ready to implement and maintain compliance management software and processes. At ComplyAssistant, our healthcare compliance consultants typically diagnose these challenges:

  • Aversion to accepting new technology
    New technology and process are often met with skepticism. Whether it’s fear of the unknown, lack of resources or understanding, this can be a roadblock to successful long-term use of compliance management software.

  • Culture change
    Creating an organization-wide culture that accepts and models good security compliance and behavior is key to reducing vulnerability and risk. At ComplyAssistant, we call this “creating a culture of compliance” – one that ensures every person is dedicated to compliance.

  • Executive governance and support
    Without executive buy-in, you may not receive budget and human resources needed to adopt and preserve a compliance management software solution.

EXPERT TIP

Create an executive governance team. This multi-disciplinary team will have oversight into all compliance activities and the power to allocate appropriate budget and resources.

  • “It’s just too big to tackle”
    Don’t let this mentality deter you! In fact, the right compliance management software can help you manage what seems like an insurmountable task. At ComplyAssistant, we recommend breaking your initiative up into smaller, manageable projects of work.

  • Competing priorities
    Too much to do and not enough time. Once again, with the right compliance management software, you can save a significant amount of time by removing manual processes. And, with security and compliance as the foundation, compliance management should be your organizations #1 priority.

  • Lack of centralized compliance management protocol
    This is especially true for fragmented organizations who do not have a standardized process for compliance management. Without corporate standards, maintaining a compliance management software and process can be more difficult.

Getting around these types of roadblocks requires organizational fortitude. We don’t want you to install compliance management software because we said so (though we think it’s a great idea!) or because it’s checking something off your to-do list. To make a compliance management software really work, you’ll need:

  • Executive sponsorship to help create a culture of compliance, and allocate the needed resources. Software can only take you so far to mitigate risk.

  • A willingness to treat compliance management as a long term, foundational strategy. Don’t think of it as a one-and-done software implementation. Used right, compliance management software can be the keystone to your overall compliance and security strategy.

  • Outside expertise to fill in the gaps. Consulting support can be used in a variety of ways – to be an extra set of hands and to offer outside, unbiased expertise.

EXPERT TIP

Make sure the compliance management consultant you hire also has a compliance management software that ticks all the boxes in our checklist above.

How do I get started with compliance management software?

Request a demo of ComplyAssistant. Our compliance management software, paired with our experienced healthcare compliance consultants, offers a unique and comprehensive approach to compliance management for your organization.

Additional compliance management software resources from ComplyAssistant

Blog: Why Empowering the CISO is Important for Healthcare Information Security Risk Management
Blog: 5 Reasons to Take your Healthcare Compliance Audits Mobile
Blog: A Guide to the NIST Cybersecurity Framework
Free tool: HIPAA Privacy and Security Proactive Audits Tool Kit
Free tool: HIPAA-HITECH Privacy and Security Reminders for the Workforce Solution: ComplyAssistant compliance management software

Featured