HIPAA is a significant federal law that works to safeguard sensitive patient data. Those who work with protected health information must meet the standards of compliance with HIPAA or risk severe sanctions including fines and penalties. Unfortunately, even though these regulations are in place many organizations still struggle to remain compliant. So, what are the most common mistakes that cause these organizations to miss the mark?
The importance of understanding and following HIPAA regulations cannot be overstated. HIPAA compliance is essential for any medical institution or business that works with patient data. Not only do HIPAA's regulations affect health care, but it also affects the privacy of all citizens in the United States who have ever received medical care. Because HIPAA has become increasingly complicated over time, having a comprehensive understanding of HIPAA regulations is vital for businesses to remain compliant. By ensuring that your practice or organization follows HIPAA guidelines exactly, you are protecting not only your own organization but also protecting your client’s confidential information and the security of the entire healthcare system.
Here are five of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.
Not Training Employees on HIPAA Regulations
A well-trained staff team is essential for any organization that processes patient data, especially when handling protected health information (PHI). To ensure compliance with HIPAA regulations, all employees must be properly trained to handle sensitive PHI. HIPAA training needs to cover a wide range of security responsibilities, from recognizing potential threats to understanding the important role of data privacy. Furthermore, to effectively protect patient privacy and prevent breaches of PHI, staff should be aware of the exact procedures they need to take immediately if a breach does occur. With adequate training in key HIPAA regulations, organizations can better protect patient data and create a safe and secure environment for everyone involved.
Not Understanding What Constitutes PHI
Protected health information (PHI) plays a critical role in the healthcare industry. Any information related to an individual's physical or mental health, medical history, payment information, or anything else that could be used to identify a person is considered PHI. HIPAA compliance requires that all entities handling PHI take special care to ensure it is secured with adequate protection and handled properly. This is especially important given the wide range of sensitive data PHI contains and its potential for misuse if not properly managed. Taking the time to understand what constitutes PHI and being HIPAA compliant can protect identities and ensure HIPAA regulations are being followed.
Not Having Proper Policies in Place
Organizations have a critical responsibility to ensure patient data remains secure in accordance with HIPAA regulations. Establishing written policies and procedures to handle PHI is key to meeting this responsibility. Moreover, as more organizations move their information onto digital platforms, it is essential that their policies include guidelines for handling ePHI. This includes implementing encryption requirements, access control measures, and protocols for data destruction to guard against any unauthorized or malicious use of the data. By prioritizing these measures, organizations can safeguard patient information while adhering to HIPAA regulations.
Not Securing Mobile Devices
In the modern healthcare environment, mobile devices are becoming more and more common. From smartphones to tablets, these powerful tools can give doctors unprecedented access to patient information. However, without proper security measures in place, they can also be a potential source of risk when handling PHI. As such, organizations should have policies in place that require all staff members who use mobile devices to encrypt data and regularly update their devices with the latest security patches. Additionally, organizations should consider implementing additional measures such as remote wiping capabilities to eliminate any potential data breach risks associated with lost or stolen devices.
Not Performing Regular Risk Assessments
Organizations that handle PHI have a responsibility to ensure all information is safeguarded. It is essential they regularly assess their systems and protocols in order to identify any potential risks or areas of vulnerability that could lead to a breach. This means having an in-depth evaluation of any current security measures in place, such as firewalls and access controls, as well as determining if and where any additional measures need to be implemented. Taking proactive steps now will not only help protect PHI now but reduce the risk of costly breaches down the road.
HIPAA compliance is essential for organizations that handle sensitive patient data. By understanding what constitutes PHI, having proper policies in place, training employees on HIPAA regulations, securing mobile devices, and performing regular risk assessments organizations can help ensure they remain compliant with HIPPA regulations at all times.