HIPAA compliance violation is a term commonly heard in the healthcare industry. Medical practices and organizations that work in the healthcare industry know too well about HIPAA and the responsibilities it brings.
HIPAA, a federal law that stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, was the first initiative taken to protect patient information. Under this law, covered entities and business associates are restricted from sharing or transferring information without the patient’s authorization or unless it relates to the care of the patient. The law also gives the right to patients to make corrections or receive copies of their medical records upon request.
Any kind of misuse of patient information, whether intended or unintended, leads to a HIPAA compliance violation. More often, HIPAA infringements stem from pre-adequate measures and common mistakes. The consequences of HIPAA compliance violations should not be taken lightly as infringement fines can range from $100 to $50,000 per event, and in extreme cases, up to $1.5 million per year and even in some cases the loss of a practice’s license.
Simple remedies for common HIPAA compliance violation
Unauthorized staff access- a very common HIPAA compliance violation
One of the most common HIPAA compliance violations stems from unauthorized access to medical records by medical professionals who access these records on their own accord without the patient’s permission. Health representatives, for either personal gains or curiosity, do not have the right to access HIPAA PHI data.
Remedy: Every new hire or interns when requesting to access data should require authorization from their superiors, even to check names. Access to medical records should always go through proper channels and with written or signed consent.
Keeping data storage and records unsecured
Usually, a large part of your workforce will have access to infrastructures like rooms or devices that contain PHI. Leaving these spaces and devices unattended makes PHI more vulnerable to hacks or thefts.
Remedy: If your documents are in physical format, keep them in locked desks or filing cabinets. Digital formatted documents should be encrypted with strong passwords and secured networks.
Another common form of HIPAA compliance violation is patient misidentification and mismatch caused by doctors accidentally filing medical records in the wrong chart. This may stem from human errors or computer glitches. Nevertheless, the repercussions will be as dire as any other infringement.
Remedy: Double-check the patient’s identity for verification before accessing data. Several progressive hospitals also use biometric patient identification platforms to tackle this issue.
Lack of training and employee negligence
Often, HIPAA compliance violations stem from sharing information in the wrong place, whether willfully or erroneously. This mostly occurs when doctors or nurses gossip about a patient and inadvertently share patient information such as names, illness, etc. This can also happen during a casual discussion with a patients’ friend, family member, or acquaintance. Leaving data unattended and sharing access with unauthorized parties can also mistakenly reveal sensitive information.
Remedy: This is why training is required by the HIPAA law. All staff members must be well-trained and informed on how to handle patient data as well as the policies and procedures set forth by your medical practice.
Improper disposal of records and devices
Smart devices and computers can malfunction and become unusable. These devices may contain PHI data which are still intact in the hard drives, even when the devices are not working. Paper files or folders that contain PHI should be shredded before disposal.
Remedy: All staff members should be well-informed on appropriate ways of disposal of records and devices such as shredding of documents, erasing hard drives, etc.
Communicating through conventional and unsecured platforms
Can I use my iPhone, Gmail or Facebook to send sensitive information are questions asked by many, although using these platforms can lead to a HIPAA violation. While sharing files or texting through these platforms may seem innocuous, cyber attackers and hackers may be able to gain access to unsecured networks and obtain protected health information.
Remedy: It is better to avoid conventional means and use industry-recognized platforms for sharing PHI information. Secured and encrypted systems must be used when a doctor communicates or shares a patient’s information.
Manage compliance tasks effortlessly
HIPAA Ready can help you with compliance as it is a robust HIPAA compliance software that includes a digital checklist of tasks, training management details, action plans, and more. With this application, you can easily keep track of all the steps and keep your practice compliant.
Leaving areas of a business unattended can lead to severe consequences and result in your organization being issued with hefty fines. With HIPAA Ready you can easily facilitate your HIPAA compliance management processes.