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6 Tips for HIPAA Compliance in Healthcare: Easy Steps to Stay Compliant
HIPAA | 4.24 MIN READ
When it comes to HIPAA compliance , the healthcare industry is one of the most regulated. After all, patient privacy and security are at risk. It’s not uncommon for doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals to make mistakes about HIPAA compliance.
This article covers the following:
Why is HIPAA compliance important in healthcare?
In the 21st century, the healthcare industry has become increasingly digitized. From patient records to doctors’ notes and even medical images, everything is now stored on databases and accessible via computer programs. This information can be accessed easily by medical professionals from different locations. And while technology has made it easier to access patient records when necessary, it has also put confidential information at risk. In fact, in a report by IDC, it was found that over 80% of healthcare providers had been breached within the past year alone.
In order to stay compliant with regulations regarding patient privacy and security, you may need to make some changes to your digital processes. Here are some tips for staying compliant with HIPAA regulations.
Make sure you have a firm understanding of what constitutes PHI
The first step to staying compliant with HIPAA is understanding what information and data is protected under HIPAA and what is not. Simply put, Protected Health Information (PHI) is any information that could identify a patient, including their name, their birth date and their address. If this information is combined with any other information related to the patient, it becomes PHI. It’s important to note that a patient’s health information does not need to be written down to be PHI. Any oral communication of health information is also considered PHI.
Be extremely careful with electronic communication
Electronic communication, whether via text message or email, is not covered by HIPAA. That being said, if you are discussing the treatment of a patient over email or other medium, make sure to be careful about what you write. The content of your communication is not protected by HIPAA, so if you write anything that could be considered PHI, it becomes accessible to anyone who sees it. If you want to talk about a patient’s treatment over the phone or in person, be sure to avoid using their name when possible. If you use the patient’s name, make sure to state that they are “the patient in Room 101” instead of “Mr. Johnson.”
Monitor your patient databases, and be sure to update records when necessary
When it comes to HIPAA compliance, patient records are one of the most important aspects of the law. These records must be kept private and secure, especially after a patient leaves a doctor’s office or hospital. Patient databases are the most common way that healthcare professionals store information about a patient. If you are working in a hospital or doctor’s office, you are likely using a patient database. Be sure to monitor the database and its security features, as well as the information that is being updated in the records. If patients are coming in with incorrect information, be sure to correct it as soon as possible. While you are at it, be sure to update records when necessary. For example, if a patient’s medication changes or if their allergies or other relevant information has changed, take your time to update that information in the database. If you are using paper records, be sure to follow the rules that apply to those records.
Implement a risk assessment and annual audit process
When it comes to HIPAA compliance, there are many ways for a hospital or doctor’s office to get in trouble. For example, if a computer containing patient information is hacked, the business could be fined or even lose its right to treat patients. To help mitigate the risk of these types of situations, healthcare professionals suggest implementing a risk assessment and annual audit process. When conducting a risk assessment, you should examine the ways in which PHI could be compromised. Then, you should devise a plan to mitigate that risk. During the annual audit, you should make sure that your plan is still effective and you follow it as supposed.
Be aware of the consequences for non-compliance with HIPAA regulations
Consequences for non-compliance with HIPAA regulations can range from a massive fine to being shut down. As we mentioned earlier, if a computer containing patient information is hacked, a business could be fined up to $50,000 for each violation. If information is disclosed without authorization, the business could be fined up to $100,000 for each violation. If a business fails to comply with the administrative safeguards of the law, they could face fines up to $1,000 per violation. If a business fails to comply with the documentation, retention, or notification requirements of HIPAA, they could face fines up to $10,000 per violation. So, as you see these are really huge numbers that can cause serious financial problems for your company. That’s why you would better be aware of this upfront to prevent facing them.
Make sure that all employees are well trained in HIPAA compliance
As the healthcare industry is at high risk of violations, it is very important to provide employees with HIPAA compliance training. In this way your organization would avoid mistakes that put a patient at risk of having his/her information disclosed. Smart Training provides HIPAA-certified compliance training courses that are developed by industry professionals. As a complete medical compliance solution it offers both individual training plans and ready-made courses that meet all legal regulations. You can also have your own compliance advisor who will audit your organization for any violations. So, make sure to spend your money on investing in compliance training rather than paying legal fines.
To Sum Up
HIPAA compliance can seem difficult and even a bit frightening when you go deeper into the legal part, but in reality it’s not. All you need to do here is to find a reliable and experienced compliance solution that will help you to effectively deal with that. Once you do this, you will no longer worry about staying compliant with the law.
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