HIPAA Compliance Training for Medical Practices

HIPAA compliance training is crucial to healthcare and medical professionals everywhere.

Most importantly, it is an ongoing process to ensure staff are fully compliant in the protection of a patient’s protected health information, or “PHI” for short.

Additionally, HIPAA compliance training protects you from potential fines and penalties for HIPAA and HITECH violations.

Your practice should be diligent in its HIPAA compliance and address all issues surrounding it with a proactive approach. This is vital to the success and integrity of your practice — and the safety of your patients.

Read on for important information regarding HIPAA compliance training.

The Basics of HIPAA Compliance Training

Staff Training Is Crucial

HIPAA compliance training for the handling of PHI is required by HIPAA. Your practice should provide an annual refresher to ensure that everyone, including physicians, receives the training. Make sure you document this training.

Do you have a large medical practice?

It may be in your best interest to get a more comprehensive in-house HIPAA training. It may be more expensive, but more beneficial in the long-run for your practice and your patients.

Where do smaller practices even start with training?

You may want to check out hhs.gov, which offers free training materials and videos. Participants will receive free Continuing Medical E

Internal Audits on a Normal Basis

Once your staff is trained, don’t forget to perform internal audits. By doing this, you will identify and resolve any problems within your system before an audit. Perform checks on a regular basis to mitigate any surprise and confusion if any issues arise.

Information Access

Staff should only access the PHI information that is necessary to perform their jobs — no more and no less. We refer to this as the minimum access principle.

Do you store documents and data in another room? This room should have limited access by staff and be locked at all times. Keep information organized and have checks and balances in case information is tampered with. If you store paper records, is your staff (providers included) required to sign them out if they plan to take them offsite?

Documentation at Your Fingertips

Your staff will need documentation front and center so they can be easily followed and enforced. If you face a HIPAA audit, those documents will come in handy.

Three documents you will need:

  • Incident Response Plans
  • HIPAA Security Rule Policies
  • HIPAA Privacy Policies

These documents should not be sitting in a file. Your staff should receive HIPAA compliance training on all documents. This way, they’ll know and understand these policies and procedures, and they’ll know where to access them.

What other documents should you have handy? Keep any prior audits and results and details on where you keep PHI information. The same goes for your technology and equipment, such as faxes, and printers, and other training materials.

Put the Safety Lock on HIPAA

Unfortunately, no practice is 100% safe from data breaches and theft. If this happens, you will need to ensure, if audited, that the incident was not a result of a lack of training or other safeguards, like inadequate documentation.

According to HIPAA Compliance Center, penalties and violations can cost your practice 1.5 million dollars per violation per calendar year.

Administrative Actions

A risk analysis is important to ensure security controls are in place and is a baseline for security processes. Your practice needs to implement policies and procedures to detect and correct any violations that occur.

Your practice is vulnerable. Be ready to address risks and implement the necessary security measures. These processes will need to be communicated throughout your practice.

Software Is Sometimes Malicious

A program that harms information systems is damaging to patient data. HIPAA compliance training proves even more important for staff to guard, detect, and report malicious software.

Scanning your software provides better protection to track down vulnerabilities.

Logins should be monitored, and if discrepancies happen, they should be quickly reported. Staff should log out when they are not at their computers.

Not only should information be constantly protected, but passwords should also be safeguarded. Passwords should never be shared and staff should commit passwords to memory, if possible. Traditional wisdom and most software systems require regular password changes. New guidance from NIST points suggests a different direction, but that’s a subject for another post.

Is Your EMR Up to Par?

Make sure the EMR you use has certifications for fully protected HIPAA standards. Steer clear of cut-rate or open-source EMR software.

Is your EMR in the cloud? Data backup and storage needs to be HIPAA compliant. Do you have a Business Associate Agreement in place with your EMR vendor? And if your EMR is not in the cloud, then you should make certain the way you store data is compliant.

Watch Those Texts

Texting is fast and easy, especially for physicians. Keep in mind that text messages are not secure and not HIPAA compliant. They can be shared and forwarded. Staff need to keep this fact in mind!

Did a Breach Occur? They Happen!

Determine the extent of PHI involved and ask these questions. Did an unauthorized individual use PHI? Do you believe PHI was accessed and viewed?

A key aspect of the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule is that the notification requirements apply to unsecured PHI or when PHI “has not been rendered unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable to unauthorized persons through the use of a technology or methodology specified by the Secretary in guidance.”

Accidents happen. For example, a staff member may by accident include PHI in an email attachment. Plan a specific response when a breach occurs.

Staff need to be correctly notified of a security breach. You should have a communication plan in place. This process will come up in an audit so be prepared to properly inform all staff of a breach.

Policy and procedures must be in place for management and execution of security measures in order to be HIPAA compliant. This includes the performance of security management processes, assignment or delegation of security responsibility. HIPAA compliance training requirements, and evaluation and documentation of all procedures among other important measures.

Continuous HIPAA compliance training and awareness is key. If your practice is facing an audit, be prepared. Get the right solutions and information in place.

Turn a daunting process into a more streamlined one, so that you are ready when the auditors arrive.

If you need an expert, we are here to guide your practice in the right direction.

HIPAA Security Reminders


HIPAA Security Suite has developed a weekly HIPAA Security Reminder series that’s FREE for all of us who are responsible for, or engaged in, the use and protection of PHI.

Pursuant to Section 164.308(a)(5) of the HIPAA Security Rule, the Standard states: Implement a security awareness and training program for all members of its workforce (including management).

This standard is part of our Best Practices Recommendations for HIPAA Security Suite users, but it’s available for FREE to anyone who wants to comply with HIPAA using the easiest, best tools available.

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