Healthcare organizations must implement strict guidelines that protect the privacy of their patients to avoid HIPAA violations. HIPAA violations may result in penalties ranging from $100 to $50,000, depending on the conduct involved. A single data breach can result in numerous violations when it comes to data breaches. Losing a laptop containing the personal health information (PHI) of 1,000 patients, for example, may constitute 1,000 violations of the Privacy Act. Adding additional penalties may be imposed if policies or practices are not implemented.
Are you running a HIPAA compliance business? If yes, then you must ensure your employees follow the HIPAA rules. Well, following the rules is mostly about avoiding violations. By doing so, you can comply with the HIPAA security rule and progress better in the field.
To ensure everything is going smoothly, you need to train your explorers. Here are some ways to help employees avoid these violations and prepare themselves for better outcomes.
Empowering Through Education and Training
The adage “Knowledge is power” stands unquestionably true when navigating the intricacies of HIPAA regulations. It’s crucial to foster an environment of ongoing learning within an organization to prevent HIPAA violations. Employees need to be well-versed in the nuts and bolts of HIPAA guidelines and fully grasp the potential repercussions of non-compliance.
In-house training programs can serve as effective platforms to shed light on various compliance matters. Through the use of relatable, real-life scenarios, these training sessions can paint a vivid picture of the severe consequences that may arise from HIPAA breaches.
Training Employees Has Many Benefits
By training employees on how to avoid HIPAA violations, the number of infringements will be reduced, and the number of unjustified complaints made to the organization and to the HHS Office for Civil Rights will be reduced. According to the HHS Enforcement Highlights website, many reported violations are not actual. Since 2003, more than 300,000 complaints have been received, of which more than 200,000 have proven to be ineligible for enforcement. HHS rejected two-thirds of complaints for the following reasons:
- HIPAA was not applied to the organization in question
- According to the complaint, the activity described did not violate any HIPAA regulations
- On review, the individual withdrew the complaint.
It can be beneficial to train employees on how to avoid HIPAA violations. Hence, they are aware of what PHI is so that they may reduce the number of unjustified complaints made by individuals who do not understand what PHI is. Employees can pass on their knowledge to patients and plan members to reduce the number of complaints about impermissible disclosures and uses of personal health information and disclosures of more than the minimum amount necessary. Compliance officers will save valuable time in the complaints review process by responding to unjustified complaints or HHS inquiries.
The Art of Protecting Electronic Data
With the digital era upon us, a substantial portion of health information now exists in electronic form. This shift necessitates rigorous protocols for the protection of electronic data. Employees must adhere to a stringent set of guidelines designed to fortify the security of this data.
Adopting practices such as using robust passwords, encrypting sensitive data, and consistently updating antivirus software can go a long way toward safeguarding against data breaches. Furthermore, employees should never leave their devices unattended, as this seemingly minor oversight could lead to catastrophic data loss.
Practicing Mindful Communication
Effective communication is vital within healthcare settings, but it is equally important to exercise caution. Unauthorized or non-essential sharing of patient information can quickly spiral into a HIPAA violation. Even a casual conversation involving patient details could have profound implications.
Healthcare professionals should avoid discussing patient health information publicly or via unsecured digital platforms. Instead, such discussions should be reserved for private, secure channels. An essential practice to adopt is always to verify the recipient’s identity before sharing sensitive information. This verification ensures the recipient is authorized to access the information, reducing the risk of a potential HIPAA breach.
Proper Disposal of Patient Information
When discarding patient data, whether paper or digital, it’s essential to do it in a manner that prevents unauthorized access. Papers should be appropriately shredded, and electronic data should be deleted securely. Never leave patient information lying around where it could be seen or taken.
Reporting Suspicious Activities
Employees should be encouraged to report any suspicious activities or behaviors. If you see someone unauthorized accessing patient information, report it to your supervisor or compliance officer. A proactive approach can prevent potential violations and protect patient information.
Without authorization, sharing PHI on social media
All employees need to understand what constitutes PHI under HIPAA to prevent inadvertent or deliberate sharing of PHI on social media without authorization. HIPAA violations, even as seemingly innocuous as commenting on a person seen at a medical facility, may result in sanctions being applied or a complaint by the individual being submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services to the Office for Civil Rights.
How do healthcare organizations comply with the HIPAA rules?
Healthcare organizations that qualify as HIPAA-covered entities must comply with the following HIPAA rules:
- A Privacy Rule governs the privacy of individually identifiable health information.
- Enforcement Rule – the processes under which HHS investigates and imposes sanctions.
- The Security Rule protects electronic PHI (protected health information).
- Individuals and HHS are responsible for being informed of a data breach under the Breach Notification Rule.
- As a result of the HITECH Act, the Final Omnibus Rule amends existing HIPAA rules.
Healthcare organizations must comply with HIPAA Rules and the Administrative Simplification Regulations, 45 CFR Parts 160 and 164, where applicable. The General Provisions and the Transactions, Identifiers, and Code Set Rules in 45 CFR Part 162 apply to healthcare organizations that conduct transactions for which HHS has published standards.
Remember, preventing HIPAA violations is not just about avoiding penalties. It’s about maintaining the trust of the patients who rely on us to keep their health information secure and confidential. By staying informed and vigilant, healthcare employees can play a difficult role in upholding that trust and safeguarding sensitive health information. You should also politely decline any friends or follow requests from patients or caregivers. Using social media would violate the social media policies of your employer. Do you know if your employer has a policy regarding employee benefits? The majority of them do. Alternatively, the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the NCSBN (National Council of State Boards of Nursing) do.