HIPAA is a set of regulations that gives patients more control over their health information. They also protect patient privacy and safeguard sensitive health data so it can’t be shared without authorization.
If you’re working with confidential patient information, you need to know your responsibilities as an employee or business owner. If you fail to meet those requirements, you could be liable for a HIPAA violation and face some serious consequences. To keep yourself safe from the risks, follow these five tips and tricks to avoid HIPAA violations:
Ensure you have the right equipment and software
You can only protect yourself against HIPAA violations if you have the right equipment and software. Most business owners think they have all they need to protect their clients’ data. That’s not always the case. Without the right tools, you might overlook something that ends up being a major HIPAA violation.
For example, you might have a paper chart system that makes it easy for a patient’s information to get mixed up with someone else’s. Or, you might use the same passwords for all your accounts and leave yourself vulnerable to hacking. That’s why you must ensure you have the right digital equipment and software to protect the information you’re handling.
Always train your employees
You can’t control every single action of your employees all the time. You also can’t be there to watch how they interact with patients and their health data. That’s why you need to make sure you educate your employees about HIPAA regulations. If you don’t, you could have severe issues on your hands.
For example, if one of your employees doesn’t know they can’t take pictures while on the job, they might snap a few pictures of their patients and post them online. That’s a massive HIPAA violation. If your employees aren’t familiar with the regulations, they could accidentally share patient information with someone who doesn’t have the authorization to see it. That also counts as a HIPAA violation.
Monitor the patient data you receive
You can’t control what your patients share with you. But you can control what you do with that data once it’s in your possession.
For example, a patient might hand you a note with sensitive information written on it. If you read that note, you could be violating HIPAA laws. You should monitor the patient data you receive and know how long you need to store it.
You can check your state’s laws to see how long you must retain data on file. If you don’t know how long you should store certain items, ask your IT department for help. You should also know how to dispose of patient data when it’s time. Some methods of disposal can violate HIPAA laws. For example, burning sensitive paper records could endanger your neighbors.
Stay up-to-date on the latest changes
There are always new updates to the HIPAA regulations. You need to stay informed so you don’t accidentally break the law. If you don’t, you could end up facing severe consequences. For example, a few years ago, the HHS relaxed the rules on how long you can store patient records.
You may have been storing patient data for far longer than necessary. So, if you were doing that before the update, you must adjust your process. You can sign up for the HHS newsletter or follow the HHS page on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest changes to HIPAA laws. That way, you can prepare yourself in case any new updates come into effect.
Don’t share patient information without authorization
If you receive patient data, you can’t share it without authorization. That seems like a simple rule. But it’s one that many business owners and employees break without even realizing. For example, you might receive a report from a third-party company and notice that it has patient data. You might have a discussion with your employees about that data and, in the process, share some of it.
That’s a violation, and you could end up facing severe consequences. You could even be fined or imprisoned for up to 10 years if you share patient data without authorization. That’s why you must ensure you know who you can and cannot share patient data with.
If you follow these five tips, you’ll be well on avoiding a HIPAA violation. A violation can have serious consequences for your business, so you must do everything possible to prevent one. For most people, HIPAA regulations are confusing and complicated. They seem like they don’t apply to you because you’re not a doctor or a medical provider.
That’s not true. Anyone who receives, stores, or transmits patient health data is subject to HIPAA laws. You need to know your responsibilities if you work with confidential patient information. You could face severe consequences if you don’t follow HIPAA regulations and a violation occurs.