The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA was created to help regulate and form standards for protecting personal health information. In 2002, an update to HIPAA was released, which added additional privacy regulations. This rule helped establish the standards for patient and individual rights to the protection and access to health-related information.

As technology and its use continue to evolve throughout the medical field and associated businesses, so does the application of HIPAA. Today the biggest challenge for businesses is to find ways to remain compliant and protect the privacy of individual data while remaining competitive. This mandates framing a HIPAA policy for employees as well as ensuring the HIPAA employee right to privacy.

HIPAA Guidelines for Employees. How to Remain HIPAA Compliant?

One point to note is that not only do you as a healthcare organization need to maintain HIPAA compliance but ensure that your employees do as well. However, HIPAA compliance for you and your employees is within reach for your business or organization, although you might have to upgrade current privacy and security practices or alter workflow.

Here are some HIPAA guidelines for employees to ensure your business and employees remain compliant:

  • Provide up-to-date training for all employees about HIPAA guidelines and in-depth instructions for those dealing directly with the patient or personal health information
  • Never share sensitive health information with co-workers or other employees
  • Secure all health data and paperwork when in use, including concealing identifiable information when interacting with others
  • Implement technological systems that log-out users when not in use
  • Assign different levels of clearance to employees, and implement role-based security features into any existing software
  • Create proper password creation and storage protocols, and never share passwords or accounts between employees
  • Develop regulations on sending emails with personal health information
  • Set up protocols for the proper storage of health data, whether onsite, on the cloud or on computer storage solutions
  • Properly vet all third-party service and software providers for HIPAA compliance (8x8 makes this easy)
  • Implement proper encryption protocols and anti-virus software across any machines on your network

HIPAA guidelines for employees are continually being adjusted to keep up with new technological trends and workplace practices. Remaining compliant means staying diligent with how your employees interact and keep track of health information, along with ensuring your software and practices are up to date.

What are the Common Employer HIPAA Violations?

Incurring a HIPAA violation can result in substantial fines for your business, along with a massive loss in customer or client trust.

Here are some of the most common examples of employer HIPAA violations you’ll want to avoid:

  • Mishandling records: if you use physical records to keep track of patient data, make sure that you establish protocols for properly handling and storing information. Leaving records out in the open could lead to the exposure of someone's private information.
  • Employees sharing information: Employee gossiping at work, or even talking to their friends and family about a patient can be a violation. Employees need to be mindful of who they’re speaking to and the information that they should keep private.
  • Data theft or breach: Theft through lost or stolen devices, or even data breaches, can result in fines. Proper security protocols should be put in place to prevent this from happening.
  • Improper data access: Accessing information from a home computer could be against guidelines, depending upon the security measures in place and who else might see the information.
  • Using non-compliant software: Take care while partnering with third-party software providers to manage records, contacts, relationships, and more. You need to ensure that service providers install HIPAA compliant software.
  • Improper training protocols: Every employee in your organization needs to have adequate HIPAA training. It’s not enough for only your managers and admin staff to possess this knowledge. Any employee that will come into contact with sensitive health information needs to understand HIPAA regulations.
  • Lack of authorization: Often, you’ll need written consent to disclose certain medical information. Whether an employee or anyone else in your organization is requesting access, you need to ensure that proper authorization protocols are followed.

Achieving HIPAA compliance will take the efforts of your entire organization, from creating and implementing protocols to ensuring all employees are properly trained. All of this effort will help to ensure the privacy of your patients, clients, and customers while avoiding employer HIPAA violations.

What is the HIPAA Employee Confidentiality Agreement?

The Privacy Rule of HIPAA requires that anyone with access to an employee’s protected health information (PHI) ensures the employee’s confidentiality.

The HIPAA Employee Confidentiality Agreement is not meant to restrict the flow of information required to provide the highest levels of care, but rather to limit disclosure of information to the minimum amount required to provide that care. It was also designed to prevent disclosure of confidential information without the written consent of the healthcare facility and/or patient.

Employers that are regulated under HIPAA typically require employees to sign a HIPAA Employee Confidentiality Agreement to verify that they know the rules and restrictions on patient data. It also helps to document any training and show that the employer took the necessary steps to educate employees about the HIPAA policy for employees. The HIPAA Employee Confidentiality Agreement can help protect organizations from claims that employees were not advised and trained on rules and regulations in the event of a disclosure.

HIPAA provides access to PHI on a need-to-know basis and limits its release to information needed for treatment. The Act provides that certain information may be released to other healthcare providers and researchers. In some cases, specific personally identifiable information must be removed before release.

A clear understanding of HIPAA guidelines for employees is necessary in order to guarantee compliance. It is critical that organizations and employees know the rules regarding these specific items:

  • Protected Health Information
  • De-identified Health Information
  • Limited Data Sets
  • Permitted Uses
  • Permitted Disclosures
  • Required Disclosures
  • Authorizations, Required Forms and Notices
  • Incidental Use and Disclosure
  • Public Interest and National Priority Purposes
  • Notes
  • Marketing Communications
  • Employee Access
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Documentation and Record Retention
  • Data Safeguards
  • Training and Mitigation Practices
  • Dealing with Requests and Complaints

Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) Rules and Regulations

The Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) was established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to govern how data collected by telecommunication companies are controlled. While aimed at communication companies, third-parties entities used by healthcare providers are also subject to the requirements.

It covers sensitive and personal information that providers have about customers as a result of their business relationship. To protect privacy, the FCC also requires carriers and providers to file annual reports to certify compliance. For in-patient services, any information collected by a patient’s use of internet or healthcare system-controlled communication (such as phones) is also considered confidential. Numbers called, time and duration of calls, and other recorded information is protected from release without patient permission or as required by law.

In today’s connected world, how patient data is handled by mobile devices, internal and external communications, and electronic communications can lead to inadvertent disclosure if not carefully monitored and structured.

How can Employee Confidentiality be Protected?

HIPAA employee right to privacy ensures that employee health information is not provided to parties, such as employers, without the consent of the employee. HIPAA laws ensure employee confidentiality for all past, current, and future employee health-related information. Employees have the right to be notified of the way in which health information is shared and to decide whether or not to give permission.

Entities such as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require employers to maintain disability-related medical information about an employee in a confidential medical file that is kept separate from the employee’s personnel file. Such information may be disclosed only in limited situations and to individuals such as:

  • First aid and safety personnel in case of emergencies
  • Supervisors and managers who would need to know about necessary work restrictions or accommodations
  • Government officials investigating compliance with the ADA
  • Officials of the court in response to subpoenas, court orders, or other legally authorized requests, but only to the extent specifically requested and authorized by the employee or applicable law

How can 8x8 Provide Data Security for Maintaining Employee Confidentiality?

Data can be especially difficult to manage when you consider all the ways people contact you and all the people who have access to the information. By using world-class contact center capabilities, including workforce optimization, advanced business phone and collaboration services, and unified communications, you can keep data secure to ensure employee confidentiality, while providing access to the people that need the information.

When it comes to security, 8x8 provides reliable and compliant cloud solutions at a demanding level rarely seen by other cloud providers. Don't take your chances with a subpar cloud-based telecom system. Call 1-855-292-6853 or fill out our online form to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 Product Specialist.