Does your Practice Fall Short on HIPAA Compliance?

2016 Alliance feature article by IT Practice, Inc.

In the medical and dental fields, protected health information (PHI) is a concern not only for the patient, but also for the employees. Protected health information is any information about the health status, provision of health care, payment information or other medical terms that can be used to identify a patient. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996 in order to protect this sensitive information. HIPAA ensures that no PHI is released without the patient’s consent. It is vital that medical professionals ensure that no violations happen and that they are working to avoid releasing PHI in any capacity.

There are several areas where healthcare practitioners need to be especially careful to ensure that no violations of HIPAA are occurring. By recognizing these areas, medical practices and staff can pay special attention and care to follow the law.

Social Media

Today it seems everyone uses social media. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the many other social media networks, we are surrounded by it. It has made the ability to “share” information easy and done with the click of a button. One issue that arises from this is HIPAA law violation. Many times healthcare professionals share information before thinking or even realizing they are violating HIPAA law. It could be something shared in a positive and harmless spirit, but it could have huge consequences if it is found to be in violation.

Photographs are a large issue in HIPAA and social media. A healthcare worker may think sharing a photo is innocent and not harming anyone, but without consent from the patient it is a violation. For example, a photo could be shared with a patient only visible in the background of the photo. This is still a violation as the patient is able to be seen and identified. While the healthcare worker did not mean for it to happen, they unknowingly violated HIPAA law.

Wireless and Mobile Devices

In healthcare fields, patient information often times needs to be shared between healthcare professionals. This information could be vital signs, PHI information on the patient, or even just discussing the progress of the patient. It is simple to send a quick email or text to relay this information quickly. It’s very easy to violate HIPAA doing this as the software and wireless networks being used may not have enough security measures to prevent a breach.

Using encryption programs allows this information to remain secure, but only if all parties involved on the information sharing have the encryption installed on their wireless devices. It is often difficult to encrypt all employee devices and as such polices should be put into place to prevent any violations. Discouraging employees from sharing PHI through wireless devices or only allowing encrypted software to be used will safeguard against violations.

Employee Training

In order to follow HIPAA and avoid violations, it is vital to understand and be educated in HIPAA law. Knowledge in the law will prevent employees from breaking the law. In many healthcare practices and industries, the only employees fully trained in HIPAA are those who are higher up in the field such as management and administrators. However, it is actually required for all staff to know the ins and outs of HIPAA.

To prevent most violations, HIPAA regulations should be integrated into practice policies and procedures. This will allow there to be more employee training and keep the staff informed and knowledgeable in HIPAA law. Employee training in HIPAA must become a priority in order to avoid HIPAA violations before they occur.

IT Practice, Inc. with headquarters based in Raleigh, NC is a HIPAA Certified IT Provider. The staff knows how vital HIPAA regulations are and ensure that when medical information comes through to them from clients it is protected and kept confidential.

IT Practice based in Raleigh, NC provides a wide range of IT solutions for Dental, Medical and Small Business Professionals across North Carolina and Virginia. Call 919.301.1000 for a consultation to determine your exact IT needs.

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