6 HIPAA Violations to Avoid
Patient health information privacy is crucial for establishing trust and preventing identity theft. That’s why HIPAA violations are so serious. They put sensitive patient information at risk and can cost health providers thousands of dollars. This can happen to anyone, too—no matter how big or small a practice is—so you can’t afford to ignore it. Knowing the most common mistakes can help you evaluate your own HIPAA compliance and data protection to avoid security breaches and the hefty fines that follow.
Patient privacy breaches usually fall into a couple categories: insufficient protection and employee errors. When you do not sufficiently protect patients’ information from potential data breaches, you put your practice and patients at risk. When employees make mistakes, inappropriately access information, or are careless, private information can be exposed. Here are some of the most common HIPAA violations:
- Hacking – Unfortunately, accessing private information through hacking is common, and easier than people realize. While some breaches are complicated, typically hackers look for easy targets without sufficient security. They exploit weak passwords, get malware on your devices, and take advantage of bugs or holes in programs. What can you do? Keep strong passwords and invest in firewalls, malware sweeps, and software updates to combat holes.
- Lost or stolen devices – Computers and gadgets are easy to lose or have stolen if you aren’t careful, and you are liable when something like this happens. What can you do? You need strict security protocols for all devices in your practice. Encrypt and password protect everything, so they are hard to access even if they are lost or stolen.
- Failure to dispose of information – Failing to shred physical documents or destroy electronic copies can allow that information out into the world. What can you do? Shred everything that is a physical copy with patient information. If you are disposing of old hard drives or thumb drives, wipe them clean—and consider damaging them in some way so you’re sure nothing can be recovered.
- Employee errors – Often a lack of training can lead to employees saying things they aren’t supposed to, or giving out information to parties who are not authorized to access it. These are simple mistakes but they can lead to a big breach. What can you do? Invest in training all employees on HIPAA compliance and patient privacy.
- Illegal employee access – No one likes to think of employees doing something on purpose to harm a practice, but it can happen. Someone might access information for a family member, or look out of curiosity, or with the intention of stealing and selling it. What can you do? Make sure your employees are trained on legal and illegal access—and know the consequences (immediate termination, possible jail time) of a breach of this kind.
- Third-party access – Some business partners and vendors working with your practice will have access to sensitive patient information, which can put you at risk if they are not HIPPA compliant. What can you do? Review all business partners’ HIPAA compliance and security measures. Don’t provide any information to them unless you have done this and they have signed a solid Business Associate Agreement.
The more effort you put into your HIPAA compliance and eliminating potentials for a breach, the better off you’ll be.
HIPAA violations should never be taken lightly. They can cost you thousands of dollars in fines, and hours of stress and work in audits. Still, if you’re proactive, you don’t have to worry. Let Collaborative Practice Solutions help you monitor and manage your compliance to make sure you’re safe and prepared. Just contact us for more information through our website or by calling (844) 430-6675.