Updated: Apr 25, 2021
There are important laws in place today that serve to protect patient health information. The best-known of these is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Without proper HIPAA compliance training, employers risk the possibility of facing violations that could damage their reputation and require them to pay significant fines.
Under HIPAA, healthcare providers and most other employers are obligated to safeguard an employee’s personal health information. HIPAA also sets conditions regarding how it is applied and which types of disclosure must have patient authorization. Under HIPAA rules, patients are granted rights to access their health information and request copies of their medical records.
How are HIPAA Violations Discovered?
In some cases HIPAA violations can continue for months, or even years, before being detected. The longer these violations persist, the greater the penalty will be once discovered. Therefore, it is critically important for all HIPAA-covered entities to regularly conduct HIPAA compliance reviews to ensure violations are discovered and corrected before they are identified by regulators.
The three primary ways in which HIPAA violations are discovered include:
HIPAA compliance audits
Investigations into a data breach by the state attorney general or OCR (Office for Civil Rights)
Investigations into complaints regarding covered entities and business associates
Five of the Most Common HIPAA Violations
In recent years, some of the most common HIPAA violations that have resulted in a financial penalty have included:
Failure to Perform a Risk-Analysis for the Organization
If risk analysis is not performed regularly, the organization is not able to detect potential vulnerabilities to the integrity and confidentiality of PHI. Without regular analysis, potential risks will likely remain in place.
Insufficient Risk-Management Processes
Risks that are identified through analysis must then be subjected to a risk management process. These risks must be prioritized and addressed within a reasonable time frame. Having knowledge about risks to PHI and failing to deal with them is among the most common HIPAA violations the Office for Civil Rights penalizes.
Insufficient Access Controls for ePHI
Under the HIPAA Security Rule, covered entities and their business associates are required to limit access to Electronic Personal Health Information (ePHI) to authorized individuals. Not implementing appropriate ePHI access controls has led to financial penalties in a number of cases.
Failure to Implement a HIPAA-Compliant Business Associate Agreement
HIPAA rules include a requirement to enter into a HIPAA-compliant business associate agreement with all vendors that are provided with or given access to PHI. The failure to do so is another of the most common HIPAA violations.
Failure to Use Encryption (or an Equivalent Measure) to Protect ePHI on Portable Devices
Encrypting PHI is one of the most effective methods of preventing data breaches. Unless the key to decrypt data is also stolen, breaches of encrypted PHI are not reportable security incidents. While encryption is not mandatory under HIPAA Rules, its value cannot be ignored. In the absence of encryption, an alternative, equivalent security measure must be used instead.
Managing Healthcare Compliance with a Learning Management System
While healthcare organizations are currently faced with increased compliance regulations with regard to staffing, operations, and more, a high-quality learning management system (LMS) can help meet compliance requirements in this heavily regulated industry. A robust LMS provides value to healthcare organizations that is far beyond simply delivering e-learning courses.
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