5 Ways Employees Can Help Prevent HIPAA Violations

Working in healthcare has a number of qualities that may not be different from other careers. An employee has to come on time, work hard, represent the company and get along with the colleagues. But there one aspect that separates healthcare from other industries is the violations of the HIPAA rules.

Health Insurance Portability and accountability act HIPAA, red folder with inscription confidential, prescription pen and stethoscope on the medical documents background
Health Insurance Portability and accountability act HIPAA, red folder with inscription confidential, prescription pen and stethoscope on the medical documents background

There are chances that HIPAA violations can be a result of a simple employee. Although it may not be a major consequence for that employee, it can surely jeopardize the entire organization. As healthcare workers are on the frontline of handling information and patient communication, their understanding of the main ways can help prevent disastrous violations. This is the reason why HIPAA training for employees is critical so that they can carry out their functions in a proper manner.

HIPAA Violation in the Workplace

Health and Insurance Portability and Accountability Act HIPAA is a group of laws that allow for minimizing healthcare fraud cases. Its major aim is to prevent the employees from preventing disclosure of prevented health information (PHI) to anybody else. HIPAA violation occurs when information falls in the wrong hands intentionally or non-intentionally.
In order to stay free from such violations, PHI should be guarded appropriately. Information leakage can lead to severe consequences, as the patients receive health-related treatments like health insurance coverage or health plans. So, the healthcare providers, medical insurers and clearinghouses should also comply with the HIPAA rules.

How Employees Can Help Prevent HIPAA Violations?

Be Continuously Informed

In order to make sure that the staff members don’t violate the HIPAA rules, it is important to properly train and inform every employee on HIPAA regulations. They should also be informed about any changes released to the regulations. The most important thing is that they must be aware of the penalties that the workplace will be facing when compliance isn’t maintained.
The employees should also be trained about the security regulations and HIPAA privacy and get answers to any questions that they have in mind. This training can be conducted by the healthcare organization or the HIPAA privacy office. There is also HIPAA security software, and there are programs offering seminars and training courses. Proper time should be given to keep the staff members educated about the HIPAA regulations that need to be followed for keeping the organization HIPAA compliant.

Never Text the Patient Information

Text messages like SMS, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger are a great way to communicate, but none of these services come with the crucial rules for containing unanticipated exposures of the PHI to the people who are not authorized. For appropriately using the text messaging service, it is important that the employer remained signed to the HIPAA compliant business associate deal with the service provider.

If a worker has to transmit the PHI, it should always be done through the approved channels. These channels include secure healthcare platforms for text messaging. The staff should also be mindful of the small things and if they consider something to be taken care of in a quick manner, it should be done before any unauthorized eye sees it.

PHI Should Never be Disposed of with the Regular Trash

There is no doubt that the majority of healthcare institutions have transitioned their record to electronic, but papers are still utilized widely. If a record has a patient’s PHI, then it has to be kept secure and also be disposed of securely when not required. According to HIPAA, all PHI should be induced unreadable and incapable to be rebuilt when it isn’t required.
The healthcare organization must have strict rules that can also cover the PHI disposal, and should be prohibiting the dumping of any records with the common waste. The workers should be instructed so that they are careful to make sure that any PHI copies are disposed of in a completely secure manner.

Never Access the Patient Records

It is a serious violation of the HIPAA rules if the employees of the healthcare organization access the patient’s records without any reason. Although the majority of employees respect patient privacy, in some cases employees do snoop on the patient records. The patients’ records can only be viewed by the employees if they need to do it for treatment purposes, healthcare procedures or settlement purposes.

According to the HIPAA security rule, institutions are mandated to sustain the access logs to make sure that PHI access in an inappropriate manner can be identified. These logs must be reviewed, and a flag must immediately be raised if a patient’s privacy violation is discovered. Accessing medical records without authorization can result in termination and criminal penalties against the individual responsible for it.

Don’t Take Medical Records When Changing the Job

There are times when the employees leave their practice, there are chances that they can be tempted to take the PHI with them. Although this can be encouraged by some of the new employees, as the information can be sold to the medical services, used to recruit the patients or buy equipment.

The employees have to be given proper training and knowledge that if they take any medical records even from a longstanding relationship with any patient, it would be considered data theft and might result in criminal charges. Even the healthcare staff has to go through the same process as the patients. For gaining access to the health data, the employees have to submit a request to get a copy of their health information by contacting the HIM department.

Conclusion

For healthcare providers, HIPAA violations can surely be a serious business. It is worth mentioning that it might look like a simple oversight in the beginning, but it can surely lead to some devastating losses and tarnished reputation. If any employee feels that the healthcare organization isn’t taking enough steps to prevent HIPAA violations, then it is better to check with the compliance officer. Other than that, one can also submit a complaint to the HHS Office for civil rights.