Being HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant in healthcare is vital. This piece of legislation introduced in 1996 transformed the healthcare industry for the better.

But why is it so important and what are the benefits of being HIPAA compliant for medical firms? And more importantly, are you making these 5 HIPAA compliance mistakes?

 

HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

Introduced in 1996, HIPAA revolutionized the healthcare industry, addressing the elephant in the room – healthcare fraud, by requiring that all health information was secure at all times and that only authorized individuals had access to patients’ sensitive, confidential data.

So what does that mean for businesses operating in the healthcare industry and why is HIPAA so important?

HIPAA brought about a number of benefits for the healthcare industry – enabling the transition from paper records to digital records, streamlining the administration process for healthcare providers, improving efficiency in the industry, and making it easier to share pertinent patient information quickly, but most importantly, securely.

HIPAA means that there is a benchmark for all personnel when recording health data and transmitting patient data safely and securely. It stipulates who has access to what health data, it restricts what health information can be shared and more importantly it restricts who patient data can be shared with.

But the people who benefit the most from HIPAA are, without a doubt, the patients themselves. Prior to HIPAA, they had no guarantees that their personal medical records were safe and away from prying eyes. Now, they know that all HIPAA covered entities must put into place safeguards to protect their personal health information (PHI), at all times.

So what are the most common HIPAA compliance mistakes that you might be making (and are you making them?)

1. Not regularly checking your security

Organizations that don’t regularly check the security of the PHI they hold are putting their patients’ data at risk. Waiting until your HIPAA compliance audit puts your organization at risk of violation because you won’t know about a potential data breach until it’s too late.

Plus, audits are held so infrequently that you can’t rely on them to find any breaches. Organizations should be proactive and use monitoring tools to locate potential HIPAA violations before any breach occurs.

2. Leaving access to private data open

If you leave access to private data open for colleagues who no longer work at your medical firm, you will be seriously in breach of HIPAA.

As soon as someone no longer requires access to a patient’s private medical records, they must have access withdrawn.

HIPAA stipulates that all PHI must be secure at all times and access to this information should only be given for treatment purposes, healthcare payment purposes, or any other permitted operations.

3. Using personal email to handle PHI

This one is a big no no.

Taking PHI home with you? Unless you’re WFH and have adequate IT security in place, using your personal email to send and receive PHI is a huge security breach. Just ask Hilary.

Despite your best intentions, when you remove PHI from its secure storage, you’re putting the data at risk.

Just don’t do it.

4. Faxing PHI insecurely

Sure, you’ve relied on your analog fax machine since forever, but did you know that faxing can leave you in breach of HIPAA?

Why?

• How often have you left incoming faxes in the fax tray for hours at a time, potentially exposing PHI to anyone who walks by?
• Have you ever checked that the fax machine you’re sending the PHI to is in a secure location? That it’s not a public fax machine?
• Do you always send your faxes with cover sheets?
• Do you keep an audit trail every time you fax PHI?

You know if you’re guilty of any of these violations.

The easiest way to ensure you’re HIPAA compliant when you fax is to use a HIPAA compliant cloud fax service. It is cost effective, it makes it easy to send and receive PHI securely with end to end encryption, it stores your faxes safely and it will keep an audit trail for you.

5. Using unauthorized devices to access PHI

If you’re WFH, it can be all too easy to use your personal tablet to access PHI, but that is putting patient data at risk.

Healthcare organizations need to restrict access to PHI from only authorized devices. Employees should be notified which devices they are or aren’t allowed to use, in order to monitor security and protect private data.

Finally, why is it important you ensure you aren’t making HIPAA compliance mistakes? Because failure to adhere to HIPAA can result in serious repercussions, not to mention ruining your valuable medical reputation and costing you big bucks.

It’s just not worth it.