Common HIPAA Compliance Mistakes
In 1996, the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted to ensure the protection of personal healthcare or medical records. Whether you’re a covered entity or a business associate, HIPAA is something you need to consider and comply with throughout your day-to-day operations. Unfortunately, cybercriminals tend to target healthcare providers due to the highly sensitive and valuable nature of the personal information they store. So how do you make sure you’re compliant with HIPAA? The first step is recognizing the most common pitfalls, issues, and mistakes that far too many healthcare providers experience.
What Happens If You Violate HIPAA Rules and Regulations?
Here’s the thing: A simple oversight can have a tremendous impact on any given healthcare provider. The fines and/or penalties for non-compliance can be huge with $100 – $50,000 cost per violation or record breached. A maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year of violations of an identical provision can be applied – and this is only looking at the financial ramifications. You may also experience criminal charges if warranted. Not to mention, the loss of patient trust can be significant in the aftermath of a breach.
Let’s take a look at the 5 most common pitfalls, issues, and mistakes that far too many healthcare providers experience:
- Human Error: It’s no secret that healthcare workers have a lot on their plate at any given time. Unfortunately, this can often result in what’s known as “records mishandling” wherein files are left in a waiting area or in clear view of individuals who don’t have authorization to view them, or in some cases, computers are left on when doctors leave the room. It’s such a small mistake, but it leaves patient data at risk for being exposed to the wrong person. Our advice? Make sure you have clear procedures for how physical and digital files are handled.
- Lack of Insurance: The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires insurance to cover any sort of investigations. If you don’t have insurance that covers you for non-conformance or complaints made against you by patients, it’s important to get insured and make sure you’re aware of the range of coverage you have. Typically, the premiums to cover you for this are fairly reasonable and well-worth the cost in the event that you need it. Otherwise, you may face hefty fines, and in some cases, the loss of your job.
- Not Sending Privacy Notices: All healthcare providers, by law, must inform their patients about how their medical information is used, as well as their rights in regards to the use and access of this medical information. HIPAA specifies that patients must be reminded of these rights every three years. This includes informing your patients about how they can obtain a copy of their records, and if any changes to your privacy practices are planned, you must inform your patients within 60 days so they’re well aware.
- Lack of Procedures for Handling Complaints: At some point in time, most healthcare providers will receive a complaint from a patient in regards to the access or privacy of their protected information. This happens from time to time, especially if patients notice a doctor or nurse leave their file out or they speak too loudly about their health conditions in the waiting room. Although a complaint doesn’t necessarily indicate a violation, it’s important to have a written procedure in place for handling complaints. This will simplify the process of handling an investigation if it arises.
- Not Working with a Technology Partner: You’re required to have a range of administrative, technical, and physical safeguards in place to protect the confidentiality and integrity of protected information. A lot of HIPAA rules and regulations center around technology, and as such, it’s vital to have a technology partner that knows the healthcare industry inside and out. They will be able to audit your systems on a regular basis, create documentation as needed, perform network penetration testing, and oftentimes, help you handle the investigation process during an audit.
Alvarez Technology Group is Your Team of Healthcare IT Experts. Call (831) 753-7677 to Get Started Now.
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