Did you know that HIPAA violation penalties can go up to $25,000 per violation category per year? That’s why medical healthcare providers need to take all precautions to adhere to HIPAA regulations. While handling such compliances is a considerable task by itself, it becomes even more challenging when the HIPAA updates its compliance terms periodically.

HIPAA considers PHI or Protected Health Information violations very seriously. The personal health information of patients is offered federal protection under the HIPAA compliance act, and the below details are protected from misuse or sharing.

  • Information entered by healthcare providers in your medical record
  • The conversation you have with healthcare providers about your health
  • Billing information
  • Personal information about the patient that is stored in the health insurer’s database
  • Other personal health information considered sensitive

Here is a list of five different HIPAA violations that may happen while handling PHI in most healthcare organizations. Preventing these violations will help manage HIPAA compliance effectively.

  1. Encryption inefficiencies 

Hospital staff must be using encrypted data while sending patient details internally between departments. Without encryption, it becomes very easy for hackers to access sensitive information and use it for illegal purposes. If your organization is not using the right cyber security processes, then this can lead to HIPAA violations.

  1. ePHI violations

These days, portable devices like tablets and smartphones have made it easy for healthcare providers to access information from any part of the world. However, this may lead to HIPAA violations when the devices are not handled right.

Check this HIPAA compliance issue example. A healthcare organization called Catholic Health Care Services came under scrutiny when the personal health records of 412 of their residents and patients were breached. An employee was carrying a work phone that had access to the health records of all patients. This iPhone was stolen, and the details were taken from it. The healthcare service was fined $650,000 for this breach.

Such violations can be prevented when medical services brands learn to handle data safely and put in rules about accessing the data outside of work.

  1. Remote access to PHI

This is an extension of the point discussed above. PHI should not be accessed from unsafe remote locations that may lead to hacking or data theft. Many times, technicians and other healthcare employees work overtime from home to finish tasks.

Consider these situations.

  • The employee may download sensitive data on their home computer that may end up being used by one of the family members.
  • The employee may open PHI records and leave them unattended, giving other family members access to information.
  • Home computers may not have the right malware that professional systems do, leading to data breaches.
  1. Inefficient disposal of PHI

Healthcare organizations dispose of old data over time, including PHI records of people who are not the patients of these organizations anymore. Disposal of PHI is a sensitive topic and needs to be dealt with the right way.

Employees in such medical services need to be trained to dispose of PHI the right way. Hard copies must be shredded and destroyed while hard drives must be wiped off completely. These are necessary HIPAA compliance processes all medical service organizations must follow.

  1. Unauthorized release of PHI

This usually happens in cases of celebrities and known public personalities who get treated in hospitals. Sensitive information, including the condition they are treated for, their progress, and medical records, could find its way to the media or public, and this would be a violation under HIPAA for unauthorized release.

Employees in such healthcare setups have to be trained to release information safely. Medical information about a patient should only be discussed with authorized individuals to prevent such violations.

Civil and criminal HIPAA penalties

When there is a violation of sensitive data by a healthcare provider, an insurance company, or a health maintenance organization, HIPAA goes on to explore whether the breach was intentional or unintentional. Unintentional breaches are penalized under the civil violation categories. The penalties usually have to be borne by the employer and not the employee(s) who caused the violation.

Sometimes, a healthcare worker may intentionally cause HIPAA compliance violations with malicious intent. HIPAA may charge criminal violation charges against the individual and/or the organization in such cases. Such charges are prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Such violations include theft of data or disclosure of data for financial gains.

How to keep up with HIPAA compliance while handling PHI?

One of the main reasons medical practitioners and healthcare professionals end up with HIPAA violations is lack of training. Employees working in such sensitive settings must be trained extensively to handle data correctly. Such organizations need to offer periodic HIPAA compliance training to employees to stay vigilant and treat PHI carefully.

As a medical billing and coding company, we are also a part of the healthcare system and are equally responsible for keeping up with HIPAA compliances.

Did you know that Quintessence is a 100% HIPAA compliant RCM service provider? All our processes are HIPAA Legislation-compliant, and we handle PHI with utmost care. All the PHI that we come in access with are stored in our SOC2 Type2-compliant data centers or within our clients’ servers. We are a 100% paperless organization to ensure no accidental data breaches happen within the workplace.

Our staff-level computing resources don’t have data sharing or storage facilities for additional safety, and everything is controlled and monitored in the cloud. All this makes Quintessence your perfect third-party medical billing and coding partner.

Conclusion

HIPAA compliance is a challenging but necessary part of running a medical service system. Apart from the primary healthcare provider, other service partners who have access to Protected Health Information should also adhere to HIPAA regulations end-to-end.

You may have the best team handling compliances in-house. However, if your partners and service providers don’t have the same efficiency, you may face penalties for violating HIPAA regulations. So when you hire third-party service providers, make sure you check their compliance setups to ensure you are on the safer side.

A brand like Quintessence will benefit you in terms of growth and revenues and help you stay safe in terms of legal complications.

References:

https://www.revelemd.com/blog/top-10-most-common-hipaa-violations

https://inspiredelearning.com/security-awareness/privacy-training/hipaa-hitech-training/

https://www.hipaajournal.com/what-are-the-penalties-for-hipaa-violations-7096/

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/guidance-materials-for-consumers/index.html