Five Common HIPAA Violations and How to Prevent Them

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HIPAA compliance is extremely important for organizations that need to deal with PHI (Protected Health Information). It has been mandated to ensure that sensitive patient information stays protected. Thus, some common HIPAA violations can lead to financial penalties – reaching up to $50,000 per occurrence with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year. Furthermore, healthcare organizations may lose their license, depending on the severity of the violation. Thus, HIPAA compliance is an absolute necessity for all healthcare organizations.

There are many forms of HIPAA violations – HIPAA regulations are quite complex and are constantly being changed. HIPAA compliance can be quite a daunting task, as it is a continuous process. However, there are some common HIPAA violations, and knowing about them beforehand can help covered entities and business associates detect them in advance and be more aware.

Five common HIPAA violations

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Keeping PHI in an unsecured state

One of the most common HIPAA violations occurs when staff members are busy with other tasks, leaving hard copies or their workstations unattended and open for anyone to take a look at. HIPAA requires that any documentation comprising PHI, hard copy or electronic, must constantly be in a secured state and location.

Make it part of the HIPAA training you provide to ensure that employees with access to PHI know that they must keep the documents safe and secure and away from unauthorized eyes. Hard copies can be locked away at assigned locations whereas digital documents should require some form of authorization to access. 

Keeping crucial data unencrypted

Unencrypted data can lead to a lot of issues – it makes it easier for hackers to steal PHI such as names, addresses, Social Security numbers, etc. and can lead to HIPAA violations. 

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Make it significantly harder for hackers to steal the data by simply encrypting the sensitive files containing PHI. Also, ensure that while you are dealing with PHI transmission with another party, the data is encrypted.

Data breach incidents

Judging by the news, this is arguably one of the most common HIPAA violations. Every time you open a healthcare-related news portal, you will see that a new healthcare data breach incident has taken place, often compromising the PHI of several individuals. In fact, over 30 data breaches have been reported this year, affecting over a million people in the U.S. Many organizations have thought that it will never happen to them, but they end up in the news. and not all publicity is good publicity. 

Hackers are always working on creative ways to hack into your system and steal patient data. They have a lot of tools to choose from, such as phishing and ransomware, and can use them to gain access to the PHI and use the data for nefarious purposes.

While data breaches have become common, constantly being on the alert can help. Continuously monitor your network to detect anomalies is a good strategy. Also, keep all your software updated to ensure you have the latest security patches and fixes. Make use of firewalls and provide training to your employees to ensure that they do not open suspicious emails and report any suspicious emails to the organization immediately. Finally, ensure that passwords are complex and are changed regularly.

Not ensuring proper disposal of patient data

Healthcare organizations constantly need to print copies of files containing PHI as well as send, use, and receive digital copies. After usage, data files must be discarded properly, otherwise, unauthorized personnel can get their hands on the PHI which can be used for various nefarious purposes, leading to HIPAA violations. 

Ensure that your employees are shredding the physical files and are completely wiping the digital copies from digital drives, leaving no trace and no information left to be stolen.

Not providing sufficient training

HIPAA is complex and in a state of continual change, so it is necessary to provide on-going training to your employees. Not providing employees with training or ample materials to ensure compliance is a violation in itself and can lead to a fine.

Ensure that all staff members who deal with PHI are thoroughly trained regarding the do’s and don’ts of HIPAA compliance and keep HIPAA documents and employees updated regularly. Remember, they are the ones who deal with PHI – they need to be the most informed and updated regarding HIPAA rules and regulations. Whenever a regulation changes, schedule a training session e to pass this information on to employees.

Ensure HIPAA compliance with HIPAA Ready

HIPAA compliance can be quite complex – that is an understatement! HIPAA contains a lot of rules and regulations which even the most experienced organizations can have trouble maintaining. This is where HIPAA Ready comes in. It is a HIPAA compliance software that eases the administrative burden. It is a robust software that simplifies and streamlines compliance – providing you with a variety of powerful yet simple tools like digital checklists, training management, incident reporting, policy & procedure customization, and much more. Keep all your HIPAA documentation in a centralized location so that you can prepare for your audits easily. Try HIPAA Ready now and see how it simplifies compliance for your organization. 

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