HIPAA violations breaches could cost your organization thousands of dollars, in addition to damaging your reputation and relationship with your patients. Penalties for not complying with HIPAA rules are divided into two categories: Reasonable Cause and Willful Neglect. Fine for a HIPAA breach owing to reasonable cause ranges between $100 and $50,000 per incident and doesn’t include any jail time. However, in case of willful neglect, the fine ranges from$10,000 to $50,000 for each incident and could also lead to criminal charges. Even a small HIPAA violation on the part of a single employee could jeopardize the reputation of the entire organization. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that your employees know how to comply with the regulations and work in accordance. Here are a few tips that could help you avoid common HIPAA violations.
- Keep Your Staff Educated And Updated
The most important requisite for ensuring that your employees aren’t violating the HIPAA regulation is to educate and inform each of them about HIPAA. Also, when changes are introduced, you must update your employees about them. Everyone must know about the penalties the employees as well as the organization may face due to the violation. Conduct training to explain your staff about HIPAA privacy and security regulations and respond to their queries. Such training could be conducted by a HIPAA privacy officer or you can also impart training through webinars or seminars. Invest enough time to make your staff knowledgeable about HIPAA compliance.
2. Keep your Devices Protected
All the devices used for storing patient health information must have firewalls, encryptions, and secure user authentication. Technologies are advancing at a fast pace and even from a remote location device can be unlocked and data can be accessed. Such technologies can also come to your rescue. Even if your device gets stolen you can remotely lock or wipe all the data. Keep your device security always updated and take all the necessary precautions to protect data stored in devices.
3. Keep Information Concealed
Keeping patient information in plain view where anyone walking into your institution could see it can also be a HIPAA violation. Such careless mistakes could cost you a lot. Always keep the folders closed, avoid keeping your appointment calendars openly displayed and keep mobile devices and computer screen hidden from visitors and patients. Train your staff to be alert to keeping health information concealed.
4. Take Care of Mobile Devices
HIPAA violations often occur through mobile devices which are frequently used for storing patient health information. Covered entities and business associates are obligated to keep their mobile devices safe and secure. If an employee’s mobile device gets stolen or has been left unattended, your organization would have to pay for his or her mistake. Remind your employees to continue to remain alert to their devices and lock them or shut them down when they are not being used.
5. Handle Patient Files Carefully
Protected Health Information (PHI) is stored in the paper as well as electronic files. Mishandling paperwork or storing the information on a wrong device could be an expensive mistake. Train your employees to maintain accuracy while dealing with patient files. Remind them to double check their work and store and save files in appropriate places.
6. Dispose of Files Carefully
There are examples where employees disposed paper files without shredding them which led to HIPAA violation. Although this is a human error and may occur due to busy schedules, forgetfulness or any distraction, it could cost your organization a lot of money in the form of penalty. The best to way to avoid it is to use electronic files. However, there are places where paper files are preferred and for them, it’s extremely important to dispose of such files carefully.
7. Use Social Media Cautiously
It’s very important to use social media wisely. The increased usage of social media for communication has also led to the increased risk of HIPAA violations. You can introduce a rule of not posting any text or picture related to work on social media to maintain HIPAA compliance. You could face a severe penalty for improper supervision or training in case any employee shares any sensitive information over social media, intentionally or unintentionally.
To keep your organization HIPAA compliant, it’s important that every employee maintains compliance with the regulations. Imparting proper education and training to the staff and informing them about the consequences in case of HIPAA violations are crucial to avoid penalties and safeguard the reputation.