Millions of people visit a hospital or doctor’s office every year. This means there are countless files out there containing private health information. That’s of past and present patients.
As a medical professional or administrator, it’s your professional (and personal) obligation to keep those records private.
In addition to this, there are countless other reasons why HIPAA Security is so important. Read this article to find out what they are.
HIPAA Security Protects The Patient
As a medical professional, you do everything you can to keep your patients physically healthy. But that’s not the only thing you need to do to protect them.
It’s also your responsibility to guard the patient’s confidential information.
Think about how you would feel if all of your embarrassing, or potentially incriminating, private health data became public knowledge. You could lose your job along with your identity. You could certainly lose your peace of mind.
HIPAA laws are in place to make sure that doesn’t happen. Or that if it does, appropriate action is taken.
In addition to protecting the confidentiality of a patient’s medical records, HIPAA Security also gives patients other rights.
This includes the designation of whom the patient decides has the right to speak for them.
This is who will make difficult medical decisions should the patient become incapacitated. While many patients believe that they can only have one person serving in this role, the reality is that they can have multiple people to help make these decisions.
Finally, HIPAA helps to protect the patient by mandating that everyone has a right to a copy of any of their past medical records. So, if a patient (again, past or present) asks your practice for a copy of their medical records, you are obligated to give it to them. However, you may charge a fee for doing so. Different states have laws determining what can be charged, so be sure to know your state’s laws.
How can you ensure that your staff is aware of all current HIPAA security measures? It is important that you implement regular training.
What Happens In The Event Of A Data Breach?
Unfortunately, even if your medical practice is following all the regulations and laws when it comes to patient security, you can still become the target of malicious hackers.
When this happens, it’s often the most confidential information that is leaked. This can be an enormous anxiety for both doctors and patients alike.
However, sometimes these data breaches could have been avoided had your practice taken reasonable preventative measures. These also could have been avoided if you had simply acted in accordance with the law.
Claiming that you “didn’t know” the HIPAA Security measures will not get you out of anything. Remember, the law sees following these rules as a professional obligation.
So, if you didn’t fulfill this obligation, you can expect to be held responsible.
In general, there are 4 different types and categories of HIPAA Violations. Each of these violations carries with it a different penalty.
Let’s take a look at them now.
These violations are defined as a violation that most likely could not have been avoided and that the person in question was totally unaware of.
However, there is still a chance that, had they been more diligent, they could have prevented the breach.
For this reason, Category 1 violations carry a minimum fine of $100 for each individual violation. The maximum fine here is $50,000. This is the least severe penalty for violating these laws.
These violations are things that you really should have been aware of. However, they’re also things that even total preparedness likely could not have prevented. It’s just on the cusp of willful neglect, but not quite there.
This category comes with a minimum fine of $1,000 for each violation. You can also be fined up to $50,000.
These violations are deemed willful neglect and will carry more severe penalties as a result. However, these cases deal with situations where serious effort has been made to correct the original violation.
These are fairly severe violations. As a result, you’re looking at a minimum of a $10,000 fine for every violation, up to $50,000.
This is absolutely something you need to do everything in your power to avoid. This is because these kinds of violations can permanently damage your individual reputation, as well as the reputation of your entire practice.
There’s no excuse for them – especially in the eyes of the law.
These violations deal with cases where HIPAA rules were violated in a case of willful neglect. Additionally, no efforts were made to correct these violations.
These are the most severe penalties that come with an absolute minimum fine of $50,000 for each violation.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Practice And Your Patients?
In recent years, there have been as many as 112 million medical data breaches.
We tell you this not to scare you. We do want to let you know that there is a real chance that at some point in your professional life, you’re going to have to deal with the consequences of an HIPAA Security violation.
What can you do to mitigate your risk?
In addition to continuously training your employees, and making sure you’re up to date with the latest additions to HIPAA Laws, there are several other steps you can take.
One of the most effective ones?
Using a professional HIPAA risk management and assessment service.
Usually, these services consist of online applications, security/compliance training and documentation, and an analysis of your current practice’s risk tolerance.
These services can help you to mitigate both immediate and future risks.
They’ll provide you with the documentation you need to stay up to date. This includes things like manuals, forms, and other security policies.
They’ll also take care of the online training of your employees, which they can access when it’s convenient for them.
When you’re ready to take the next step in your medical practice, and want to ensure you’re always up-to-date on HIPAA laws, reach out to us to get started.