The Top 10 Most Common HIPAA Violations and How to Avoid Them

By Ashutosh Jha → Last Updated on Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Did you know that HIPAA fines could go as high as $50,000, and the penalties could be as much as $1.5 million per year per violation?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPAA, was enacted into law in 1996. It features five sections that detail security and data privacy provisions. They safeguard the PHI, or protected health information, and serve to avoid common HIPAA violations.

Failing to comply with the HIPAA regulations attracts steep fines and penalties. It could result in civil or criminal charges as well. The minimum civil penalty would cost you $100 per violation, but repeat violations could set you back as much as $25,000. As a practicing physician, it's your responsibility to ensure compliance with the HIPAA regulations.

In this guide, we'll take you through the top 10 most common HIPAA violations and how you can avoid them.

10 Most Common HIPPA Violations

1. Keeping Unsecured Records

You possibly use written patient records and charts in your practice. If you leave them in a patient's exam room, unauthorized people could take a look at them. This is one of the most common HIPAA violations and one you should avoid at all costs.

You should never forget to log off a computer with PHI information. All your staff members must, at all times, lock physical PHI documents in secure locations. Any electronic information you have should have passwords or phrases that only authorized people to have access to.

2. Snooping on Patient Information

The Privacy Rule only allows access to healthcare information for three reasons. These include treatment, healthcare operations, and payments. Accessing the information for any other reason is a common HIPAA violation.

This is one of the most common HIPAA violations committed by employees. The problem is that once discovered, the violation leads to termination of employment. It may also lead to criminal charges against said employees.

3. Using the Wrong Technology to Relay PHI Information

Physicians in your healthcare facility need to communicate PHI. This results in the delivery of quality services and proper care to the patients. However, using unsecured technologies, such as text messages, is a HIPAA violation.

You need to use purpose-built secure communications specifically for this purpose. Moreover, the system should be authenticated, encrypted, and audited. This ensures that you meet the security requirements necessary.

4. Failing to Perform a Wide-Risk Analysis

Failing to perform a wide risk analysis for the organization is one of the most common HIPAA violations that attract financial penalties. If you fail to perform a wide risk analysis regularly, you will have no way of knowing what vulnerabilities you have to your confidentiality.

This will leave your doors open to hackers. When they strike, you risk facing dire HIPAA violation consequences even though it may happen without your knowledge. For this reason, you need to be aware of what vulnerabilities you have and catch them on time.

5. Improperly Disclosing PHI

When your employees discuss patient information with their friends, colleagues, or family members, they are violating HIPAA regulations. Discussions and conversations about patients should only be conducted privately with relevant authorized personnel.

Your employee policies must be clear about this issue. You should reinforce it to avoid possible HIPAA violation penalties. To prevent improper disclosure of information, you can also use security authentications.

6. Failure to Enter into HIPAA-Compliant Business Agreements

This is, by far, one of the most common HIPAA violations. A lot of people fail to enter HIPAA compliance business agreements with the vendors they associate with. As a healthcare provider, you're bound to share PHI with some of these vendors.

If you don't have an agreement, it's going to be a violation. You face HIPAA Enforcement should you or your employees fail to meet the rules.

7. Patient Signature Non-Compliance

All information you have in your practice must have authorizations. Files should be specific on what is released and for what purposes.

It should contain who is to disclose or receive PHI, the events or expiration date, and the patient's signature. If any information is released without the patient's signature, it'll be a HIPAA violation.

8. Improper Disposal of Records

You need to train your staff members on proper disposal of records that contain protected health information.

Any documents you have in your practice with driver license numbers, Social Security Numbers, illness diagnosis, medical procedures, etcetera should be disposed of properly. This could mean anything from shredding, destroying, or wiping hard drives depending on the type of information.

9. Denying Patients Access to Their Health Records

According to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, all patients are entitled and have a right to their medical records.

They should be able to obtain copies on request as it allows them to check for errors. If you deny patients these records, overcharge the copies or fail to provide them within 30 days of their request, you'll be facing a HIPAA violation.

10. Exceeding the Stipulated 60 Days for Issuing Breach Notifications

According to the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule, you have a maximum of 60 days after discovering the data breach to issue breach notifications.

Exceeding this time frame is one of the most common HIPAA violations. It's one you can easily find yourself paying for. You must meet this guideline to avoid further penalties and unnecessary charges.

The Most Common HIPAA Violations and How to avoid them

These are some of the most common HIPAA violations, although there are others you should be aware of. Most of these violations happen due to misunderstandings about HIPAA guidelines and requirements.

For this reason, you need to familiarize yourself with all the HIPAA requirements. Keep your staff well educated and always ensure that all procedures and policies follow the most updated rules.

Now, you're running a business, and HIPAA violations are only a part of it. If you want to know more about advertising, marketing, business, and technology, please check out our blog section. We have so much valuable and in-depth information lined up for you!

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Ashutosh Jha

Ashutosh Jha is a professional blogger, Blog and IT Consultant. He writes about Blogging, SEO, Making Money, Internet Marketing and Web Design.
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