How to Report and Prevent HIPAA Violations

As a medical and healthcare professional, you know that HIPAA laws and enforcement procedures are constantly evolving.

Sometimes, it’s hard to keep up.

Still, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be held responsible in the event of a HIPAA violation.

In this post, we’ll tell you some of the best practices that you should take in order to avoid a HIPAA violation. Then, we’ll move onto discussing the actions that you should take if your data has been compromised.

Remember: preparation and prevention are the keys to avoiding the kinds of fees and reputation damage that can cause your practice to under.

Start that process right now.

How To Avoid A HIPAA Violation

While we want to ensure that you have the resources you need when it comes to reporting a violation, let’s first discuss the steps you can take to avoid one in the first place.

1. Educate Your Employees

This is, far and away, the absolute best way to prevent a HIPAA violation.

Have thorough, continuous discussions with your employees about HIPAA standards and requirements, as well as a frank conversation about the consequences they can expect to face for violating them.

Always ensure that you’ve taken the time to create guidelines about how to protect patient privacy, and even conduct random and unannounced spot checks to ensure those guidelines are being followed.

It’s especially important to talk to your staff about social media use. In recent years especially, unacceptable, unethical, and just plain stupid use of social media within the nursing world has led to a rash of HIPAA violations.

Make it clear to your employees that they should keep mum about their work life on social media.

Additionally, drive home to your employees the importance of keeping a close watch on laptops, mobile phones, and other devices that store private patient information.

Remember, you will still be held responsible if this information falls into the wrong hands.

Encourage your employees to leave these items in the office, to never access unsecured wireless networks, and to password protect everything.

2. Get A HIPAA Risk Assessment

One of the most effective ways to prevent a violation is by getting a HIPAA risk assessment test to help you identify and eliminate potential security threats.

An assessment will take a look at the physical and digital places where patient files are kept, and find the weaknesses within your system. Experts will also meet with your staff to ensure that they’re up to date will all the latest policies.

Keep in mind that risk assessment isn’t optional — it’s a legal requirement.

However, the thoroughness of your tests is what can make all the difference in the future. So, make sure you’re working with professionals willing to go the extra mile.

3. Strengthen Your Security Strategy

Another way you can avoid a HIPAA violation?

By doing everything you can to strengthen the security of your patient files and information.

This means encrypting all of your sensitive data. This way, even if it does fall into the wrong hands, hackers won’t be able to decipher the random string of letters and numbers.

Enable two-factor authentication, and put up firewalls to make it even more difficult for hackers to access your data. Additionally, make it clear to employees that it is never appropriate to text patient information to one another or to the patients themselves.

Keep in mind, however, that protecting your data doesn’t apply exclusively to technology.

Theft of paper records that have been improperly secured will also open you up to a violation — so you need to take the physical security of patient records into consideration as well. Invest in a paper shredder, always lock your files, and never remove them from your office or leave them out on your desk.

How To Report A HIPAA Violation

Unfortunately, sometimes in spite of your best efforts, you may still find yourself subject to a HIPAA violation.

When this happens, we strongly suggest that you reach out to a professional HIPAA compliance service to help you as soon as possible.

Our HIPAA emergency response team will help to determine that a violation has in fact occurred, and will then help you to measure the extent of the violation.

Remember, at the same time that you’ll need to follow the proper notification procedures, you’ll also need to be doing everything you can to neutralize and control the threat.

If your data has been hacked into or even deleted, you may also need a HIPAA compliance service to help you with backup and disaster recovery. This will help you to restore your files and ensure that no further leaks happen.

Then, you and the compliance team will work through the formal reporting and notification process together, to ensure that nothing is left out.

Need Additional Assistance?

A HIPAA violation can happen anywhere, anytime — so you need a compliance and response team that you can count on 24/7.

We are that team.

In addition to providing IT support services, audit response services, emergency assistance, and ongoing staff training, we also offer thorough compliance and security assessments.

Remember, when it comes to HIPAA, prevention, education, and proactivity are the best cures.

Let us help to ensure that you’re up to date on all of the latest HIPAA laws and regulation, provide risk assessment, and much more.

Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help you to eliminate or significantly lessen your office’s risk for HIPAA violations so that you — and your patients — can sleep better at night.