Most healthcare organizations, medical and dental practices are fully aware of the importance of HIPAA law and take all appropriate measures to protect their patient’s health information. However, employees who are not up-to-date on HIPAA rules and regulations can sometimes put a healthcare facility at risk for a potential violation that could damage a practice’s reputation and result in significant penalties or criminal and civil fines. Regular and ongoing compliance training for all employees is one of the easiest ways to prevent the improper use of PHI and reduce the risk of a violation. Below we will cover some of the 7 most common HIPAA violations to avoid and how training can help mitigate your risk of a violation.
7 of the most common HIPAA violations to avoid:
- Snooping on Medical Records- Illegally accessing patient files or looking at family, friends, neighbors, or celebrities’ health records is a very common HIPAA violation committed by employees. Whether the act is out of curiosity, spite, or as a favor for a relative or friend, it violates HIPAA and can result in hefty fines and even prison time.
- Failure to Perform a Risk Analysis- An organizational risk analysis helps healthcare organizations identify risks, vulnerabilities and flaws in their systems, processes and security. Ultimately, it can help organizations improve HIPAA compliance and standards. The failure to perform a risk analysis is a HIPAA violation that can result in a financial penalty.
- Lost or Stolen Devices- The theft of personal health information (PHI) through lost or stolen laptops, desktops, smartphones, and other devices is another common HIPAA violation. Mobile devices are the most vulnerable to being stolen due to their size. This is why safeguards should be put into place, such as password-protected authorization and encryption, to access patient-specific information.
- Denying Patients’ Access to Health Records or Exceeding Maximum Timeframe for Access- Denying patients’ access to their records or exceeding the permitted timeframe is another repeat violation of HIPAA rules. According to HIPAA law, patients have the right to view and access their medical records. Healthcare practices must provide that information within 60 days. Any health organization or practice that refuses patient access is subject to fines.
- Failure to Enter into a HIPAA-Compliant Business Associate Agreement- Most healthcare organizations work with third-party companies, many of whom are granted access to health records. Under HIPAA rules, any entity with PHI access must also follow HIPAA standards. The failure to enter into the appropriate HIPAA-compliant business associate agreement is another very common HIPAA violation.
- Failure to Report a Data Breach- The failure to report a data breach is one of the most common HIPAA violations. According to HIPAA law, all covered entities are required to report data breaches after the discovery of the breach “without unnecessary delay” and in a timely manner, no later than 60 days. Breach notifications that affect more than 500 people must be reported to the OCR. If a facility exceeds the 60-day deadline, it will be subject to penalties.
- Lack of regular HIPAA Training- One of the most common reasons for a HIPAA violation is employees that are not familiar with HIPAA regulations. HIPAA law requires all employees, volunteers, interns and anyone with access to patient information to be trained. Compliance training is one of the most proactive and easiest ways to avoid a violation.
Prevention is always the best preparation when it comes to reducing your practice’s risk for a HIPAA violation. To ensure the protection of patient data and decrease the risk of costly penalties, it is important that healthcare organizations and practices implement ongoing HIPAA training for all staff members and regularly update their policies and procedures. Make sure your materials are current, update your manuals to prevent potential violations. Most violations can be easily prevented by implementing HIPAA regulations into practice policies and procedures and ensuring that all individuals with access to patient information receive the proper training.
Looking for more information about HIPAA training? Contact the experts at MedSafe. MedSafe is the nation’s leading one-stop resource for outsourced safety, training, and health compliance solutions. We offer a wide variety of onsite and online training courses, including OSHA Safety, Corporate Compliance, HIPAA, Billing Compliance, and Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace.
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