When you go to the doctor, you trust that your personal information will be kept confidential. After all, it’s sensitive stuff—your health history, contact information, and more. Unfortunately, there are people out there who would violate your privacy for their own gain and might sell your information or use it to commit fraud.
Healthcare providers must protect patients’ privacy, but sometimes this doesn’t happen. Patients’ personal information is often mishandled or shared without authorization, which can have serious consequences.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal statute that established national standards for protecting sensitive patient health information. PHI is a term that refers to data about a person’s health, including protected health information (PHI). It includes any data regarding a patient’s health like:
- Every medical service provided to the patient
- Personal information of the patient like their name, address, social security number, and birthday
- Medical conditions of the patient
Protected Health Information (PHI) must be protected as part of healthcare data privacy. The consequences of violating healthcare data privacy laws can be severe, so it’s essential to be aware of the laws and how to comply with them.
Most Common Kinds of HIPAA Violations
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigates HIPAA complaints. OCR’s investigations revealed that the most common types of HIPAA violations are:
- Unauthorized access or disclosure of protected health information
- Lack of physical safeguards for PHI
- Lack of security controls for PHI
- Inadequate training on HIPAA compliance
Accidental vs. Intentional
You need to know if the violation was accidental or done on purpose. If it was an accident, there’s a good chance you can avoid any penalties. However, if the offense was intentional, you could face some severe consequences.
Intentional violations of HIPAA are usually done for personal profit, such as selling patient information to marketing companies or using it to commit identity theft. These types of offenses can result in civil and/or criminal penalties.
The consequences of violating healthcare data privacy laws can be severe, whether accidental or done on purpose. Here are some of the top consequences of violating healthcare data privacy laws:
- Criminal charges and imprisonment
- Loss of job
- Damage to reputation
How To Avoid Violating Healthcare Data Privacy Laws
The best way to avoid violating the law is to prevent unauthorized access to patient information in the first place. Here are some tips on how to do that:
Create and maintain a HIPAA compliance program
A HIPAA compliance program is a set of guidelines that healthcare providers can use to protect patient information. It includes policies and procedures for safeguarding data, training employees to comply with HIPAA regulations, and establishing consequences for violators.
Creating and maintaining a HIPAA compliance program is essential for protecting patient privacy. Following the guidelines can help ensure that confidential information is adequately safeguarded and prevent unauthorized access.
Train employees on HIPAA compliance
All employees with access to protected health information (PHI) should be trained to comply with HIPAA regulations. Training should include an overview of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, the Security Rule, and other applicable laws. Employees should also be aware of the consequences of violating HIPAA laws.
Training employees on HIPAA compliance is essential for preventing violations. You can help prevent unauthorized access and disclosures by ensuring that all employees with PHI are trained on the regulations.
Implement security controls
Security controls are measures that healthcare providers can take to protect patient information from unauthorized access. These measures include physical safeguards, such as locked doors and security cameras, and electronic safeguards, such as password-protected computer systems.
It’s also critical to ensure that all outdated data is removed from any computers, including your backups. If all of your data are in paper form, it might be catastrophic if you just trash it and trust that no one will see it. However, if your documents are not disposed of properly, an employee or a visitor to your business may obtain them.
The best way to dispose of this is with secure shredding services, which destroy all data evidence most quickly and efficiently possible. In this fashion, patients and healthcare providers have the assurance that their information has been appropriately destroyed and that they are following Federal Privacy Laws.
Conduct regular risk assessments
Healthcare providers identify potential patient information threats and take steps to mitigate those risks. Risk assessments should be conducted regularly and updated as new issues arise so that the organization can stay ahead of cyber-security trends. This helps healthcare professionals understand their own institution’s security posture while also providing insight into what they might do if faced with an attack from a particular group trying to specifically target one area within your business.
By conducting risk assessments regularly, you can help ensure that confidential information is appropriately safeguarded. This allows them to provide safer care for their patients and secure your organization’s reputation before it’s too late.
All in All
Healthcare privacy laws are in place to protect patients’ personal information. Violating these laws can have serious consequences, including criminal charges, fines, and even imprisonment. So, it is important to know what the laws are and how to comply with them.