Any organization that provides healthcare, as well as their associates, are required to comply with HIPAA and do everything in their power to prevent HIPAA violations. Unfortunately, these violations still happen, mostly due to data breaches. In healthcare, that usually happens because of insiders.
If you work in a healthcare organization, you can take certain steps that will improve your defenses and prevent you from accidentally making a HIPAA violation. It’s up to you and all of your employees to learn how to prevent this together.
What happens if you don’t comply with HIPAA?
Keep in mind that there are some serious consequences for any business that fails to comply with HIPAA:
- Corrective action plans where your organization goes through a compliance audit or a complaint investigation. You will need to follow a corrective action plan to make sure you’re compliant with HIPAA.
- Fines that range depending on whether the organization knew it was non-compliant and the severity of the violation.
- Termination of the employee who knowingly violated HIPAA.
- Jail time and monetary fines for employees who knowingly violated HIPAA.
- Losing your patients’ trust and business.
How to prevent HIPAA violations: 10 strategies for success
Let’s go through all the strategies you can use to make sure you’re HIPAA compliant.
Never share your password
Provide every employee with unique login details and explain that they shouldn’t share their username or password with anyone. Make sure all login details are private and don’t write them down anywhere. If one employee uses another employee’s login details, it’s a violation.
Keep all electronic devices safe
Nowadays, medical professionals use mobile, tablet, and laptop devices to store patient health information. If an employee loses a device with this information or it gets stolen, your business will pay a hefty fine.
Make sure to remind employees to always keep devices with them and lock them if they aren’t using them. This is the easiest way to prevent HIPAA violations that happen due to lost or stolen devices.
Enable firewalls and encryption
Even if a device gets stolen or lost, you can keep the information in it secure by enabling firewalls and encryptions. Additionally, you can implement technologies that allow you to remotely lock a device or reset it to default settings.
For extra security, make sure to enable multi-factor authentication, as it blocks 99.9% of all attacks.
Be careful on social media
Most of your employees probably use social media, so it’s important to educate them on how to prevent HIPAA violations on these platforms. Constantly remind them that they aren’t allowed to post any text, video, or pictures that hold customer or workplace information. This also includes selfies that were taken at work.
Don’t take medical records with you if you change your job
Some medical professionals are tempted to take PHI (protected health information) with them when they leave a practice, which is a HIPAA violation. New employers even encourage them to do this because they want to use the information and sell medical services to patients, but this is a violation.
Never access records out of curiosity
If an employee accesses a patient’s health records without a legitimate reason, they are committing a HIPAA violation. You are only allowed to access these records for treatment and payment purposes as well as healthcare operations.
Avoid sending patient information via text message
A lot of people use text messages because they’re an easy form of communication. However, neither of the commonly used messaging services are actually safe. Regular text messages aren’t encrypted, and if someone sends confidential patient information via text message, it can leak.
Don’t throw away paper records with regular trash
Even though most healthcare facilities use electronic healthcare records, paper documents are still widely used. If you have any document that discloses patient PHI, you need to dispose of it securely.
All PHI needs to be indecipherable and unreadable when you throw it away. If you don’t already have strict rules that cover the disposal of paper PHI, you’re violating HIPAA.
One way to stay compliant with HIPAA is to use online forms. Using HIPAA-compliant online forms will help you ensure your activities don’t violate HIPAA.
Be constantly informed and educated
The best way to ensure all team members are HIPAA compliant is to constantly inform them of HIPAA regulations. You also need to do research and see if any new information about regulations is released or if there are any changes to current regulations.
Hold training for employees where you will educate them on HIPAA. Explain what kind of penalties they can expect for noncompliance and answer all of their questions.
Keep patient information out of sight
Let your staff know that they should never keep patient information in plain view. If they do, anyone who comes into your practice can easily see someone else’s private information. This is a very small and careless mistake, but it still happens very often.
If you want to know how to prevent HIPAA violations, bear in mind that every employee needs to be compliant. Make sure to inform, educate and train employees on what is considered a HIPAA violation and what consequences they can expect. This is the only way you can prevent violations from happening.