HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a significant piece of federal law that outlines the standards to ensure the privacy and the security of protected health information (PHI). With the popularization of digital systems used to store and use patient information, the need for a guideline on how to protect them emerged. HIPAA regulation meets this need by enforcing the necessary measures.
Failure to comply with HIPAA regulations can result in penalties, other legal issues, or damage to an organization’s reputation. There are several rules to HIPAA and healthcare organizations need to follow them. In this article, we will explore the five top violations of these rules and HIPAA in general, and suggest ways to avoid them.
HIPAA Violation 1: Failure to perform a risk analysis
A common HIPAA violation is failure to perform regular risk analysis on networks where PHI is stored. HIPAA dictates that organizations need to analyze their data centers and fix any potential vulnerabilities. Identifying and evaluating these vulnerabilities is critical to ensure the integrity of sensitive information.
This violation can result in severe consequences. First of all, not performing frequent risk analyses will prevent you from keeping up with the current threats, thus making your network vulnerable to cyber threats. By opening the door for criminals, you can experience data breaches and the unauthorized use of PHI. In addition, failing to do this will also lead to significant monetary penalties by authorities.
In order to avoid this violation, organizations can develop their risk management plans beforehand and schedule risk analysis sessions at least once a year as suggested by HIPAA. It is also important to note that any significant changes in your IT infrastructure will also require a new risk analysis to make sure they do not become a liability.
HIPAA Violation 2: Unauthorized access to patient information
The second violation we will talk about is the unauthorized access to PHI stored in healthcare organizations’ networks. Unauthorized access means that someone can access PHI without any legitimate reasons or permission. HIPAA regulation states that organizations are responsible for implementing the necessary measures both technically and physically to prevent this.
This violation results in critical damages to the organization’s reputation as well as potential criminal charges. According to HIPAA, companies are required to inform the affected patients when a data breach happens. Unauthorized access can result in further breaches and ruin the brand for good.
Companies need to adopt strong access control measures to prevent this violation. For a proper security compliance status, organizations can assign unique user IDs and passwords as well as use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to increase the protection of these assets. It is also important to assign roles so IT teams can decide the limits of how much users can access. Lastly, constantly monitoring logs to make sure all users abide by their permission levels and to detect potential breaches.
HIPAA Violation 3: Failure to train employees on HIPAA policies
Whenever the topic is cybersecurity, it is important to understand that the end users, who are most likely your employees, are the first line of defense against any cyber threat you may face. Unfortunately, companies often disregard this fact and fail to train their employees. Lack of proper HIPAA policies training is another common violation.
This violation results in different consequences. But in general, an untrained employee will not be able to tell how to act accordingly to HIPAA policies. There is a great risk of data breaches and other violations following this due to the failure to train employees on HIPAA policies.
In order to avoid this failure, companies need to set up a comprehensive training plan regarding HIPAA standards and train all employees. All effective HIPAA training plans should include in-person and online training if possible, and emphasize the importance of HIPAA using case studies and assessments. It is also important to note that HIPAA also states that contractors and partners are also responsible for any potential data breach, so this training program needs to be applicable to them too.
HIPAA Violation 4: Failure to implement proper safeguards for Electronic Protected health information (ePHI)
Electronic Protect health information (ePHI) is a critical part of HIPAA regulation. Nowadays, most healthcare organizations utilize electronic systems to store patient data, and keeping them secure from cyber threats is mandatory. However, due to the increased risks, we face today, unfortunately, this is a common violation.
Without needed measures, healthcare providers may be vulnerable to cyber attacks, data breaches, and other security threats that could compromise patient information. As a result, organizations may get fined or deal with legal actions.
In order to avoid this violation, organizations need to implement the required security tools on their digital network. Some of these tools and technologies can be firewalls, encryption, and access controls. But of course, these will change depending on your IT infrastructure and the specific needs of your company.
By using suggested technologies and constantly evaluating their current security status, companies can prevent data breaches and secure ePHI effectively. HIPAA outlines all the necessary services that companies may need to protect their patients in the digital world too, so following them will ensure that your network is ready to take on challenges.
HIPAA Violation 5: Failure to properly dispose of protected health information (PHI)
Companies receive, use and store protected health information (PHI) to serve their patients. But the importance of the disposal of such information is unfortunately often undermined. Any individually identifiable information belonging to the patients should be disposed of properly if they are unused.
Physical documents containing this data should be shredded, burned, or pulverized. However, as we mentioned above, ePHI brings up other challenges. Due to the risks associated with digital assets, the disposal of ePHI should also be handled carefully. Common suggestions include Cryptographic Erase (CE) which renders the information unreadable or simply physically damages the hardware containing ePHI.
Preventing this violation requires the training of employees on proper disposal techniques for each type of sensitive information stated under the HIPAA, and following the HIPAA guidelines regarding this process.
HIPAA regulation is a popular topic amongst healthcare organizations, and for good reasons too. Compliance with this regulation is critical to the success of any company in this industry, and any failure will result in monetary fines at best. In this article, our purpose was to bring up the top five violations of HIPAA to give you a heads-up. We believe that using the suggestions we provided to avoid these violations will help you prevent legal issues your organization may face.
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