Are You Unwittingly Violating HIPAA Regulations?

Are You Unwittingly Violating HIPAA Regulations?

In a busy medical office, it’s easy to violate HIPAA regulations without even realizing you’ve done anything wrong. Unfortunately, violations can lead to stiff fines if you’re caught breaching regulations. Every year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services receives approximately 4,000 complaints about HIPAA violations. Make sure your office isn’t on the list by avoiding these HIPAA trouble areas.

Exposing Confidential Information to Other Patients

Although everyone in your office understands it’s important not to discuss one patient with another or provide information to a family member without a signed release form, they may not realize just how easy it is to unwittingly share information about other patients with the entire waiting room.

Keeping patient information private requires scrupulous attention to the way you handle files and other patient information. Don’t leave the information where other patients can see it, and always exit out of computer screens that contain patient information before showing the next patient into an exam room. Even addresses are considered private information. It’s far better to ask patients to review forms than to rattle off an address and ask if it’s current.

Neglecting Your Computer Network

Patient records are a treasure trove of information for thieves. Once they hack into your system, they can easily find patient names, addresses, social security numbers and credit card information. Your firewall stops thieves from accessing your system, but it can’t do its job if it’s not up to date. Set your network firewall to receive automatic updates and manually check log files for signs of attempted intrusions. Don’t ignore alerts and follow HIPAA reporting procedures for computer breaches if you’re hacked.

Being Lax with Your Laptop

Thanks to your laptop, you’re no longer chained to the office computer. Now you can take your work home with you and not miss out on family time. Don’t let a relaxed family setting lull you into being careless, though. Don’t leave information on the screen, even if you’re only leaving the room to get a glass of water. Password protect your laptop, keep it locked away when you’re not using it and don’t leave it unattended in your car.

Texting Confidential Information

Texting is one of the fastest ways to share information with another medical professional, but it sends that information into cyberspace where anyone can potentially access it. Don’t text unless you’re using a special encrypted program to send texts, and only send those texts to other people if you’re positive they’re using the same program.

By keeping these potential programs in mind and educating your staff about HIPAA basics, you can avoid a costly, and potentially embarrassing, violation.

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