HIPAA Guidelines for Employees: How to Stay Compliant
Most businesses understand HIPAA regulations quite well. However, it’s not enough to understand the regulations, you also need to apply them in your day-to-day business. This extends to internal processes and your employees' actions.
Failing to comply with HIPAA regulations can lead to steep fines and serious damage to your business’ reputation. How can your business remain HIPAA compliant? Take a look at some basic guidelines and common violations:
A Brief Background on HIPAA
HIPAA was created in 1996 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 their health-related information.
As technology and its use throughout the medical field and associated businesses continue to evolve, 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.
HIPAA Guidelines for Employees: Remaining HIPAA Compliant
HIPAA compliance is within reach for your business or organization. Although you might have to upgrade current privacy and security practices or alter workflow, compliance shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve.
Here are a few best practices 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 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 or in cloud or 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 standards 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.
Common Employer/Employee 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 makes sure you establish protocol 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 gossip or even talking to friends and family can lead to a violation. Employees need to be mindful about who they’re speaking to and the information 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: you might rely on third-party software providers to manage records, contacts, relationships, and more. You need to ensure any providers you’re using offer a HIPAA compliant solution.
- Improper training protocols: every employee in your organization needs to have adequate HIPAA training. It’s not enough for 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 all of this effort will help to ensure the privacy of your patients, clients, and customers while avoiding any HIPAA fines.
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