The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which sets the standard for protecting private medical patient information, can lead to major headaches for those in health care. The increased use of technology for storing patient information also means increased security risks. It is important for those in the medical field to have a deep understanding of how to properly protect sensitive patient information.
The Office for Civil Rights requires all medical professionals to have appropriate safeguards in place to protect the privacy of personal health information. Because HIPAA manuals are so intricate, it’s important for those in charge to seek assistance to smartly navigate compliance. When a breach occurs, one of the main factors reviewed by the Office of Civil Rights is whether the incident was caused by ignorance or negligence. Depending on the severity, there are a large number of risks and consequences that may follow:
Lost Time & Effort: Rectifying a breach can take a lot of time and energy from leadership. The team will need to work with the Office of Civil Rights to determine exactly how information was compromised, who was responsible, how to prevent it from happening again and ensuring all employees are following the same protocol.
Fines: HIPAA violations are costly. Penalties for noncompliance, based on the level of negligence, can cost up to $50,000. The maximum penalty per year for violations is $1.5 million, an amount that could be detrimental to a small or medium-sized practice. Depending on the severity of the infraction, criminal fines or jail time also can be introduced.
Loss of Trust: Loss of Patients: If there is a pattern of breaches within one medical practice or health care entity, this can lead to patients loosing trust and choosing to go elsewhere. Medical information is extremely personal and patients will want to know they can trust their health care provider to keep their records confidential.
Practice Closure: In some circumstances, the combination of fines, lost work time and loss of patients is too much for a medical practice to overcome. This can be avoided if there is a HIPAA compliance plan in place, which employees carefully follow.
Understanding HIPAA rules can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming, so it is important to partner with a knowledgeable team that can help with ongoing management of HIPAA compliance. Ensuring there are proactive protocols in place to protect sensitive information and reduce risks of HIPAA negligence will help save time and money in the future.
To read this article in its entirety, visit the Grand Rapids Business Journal online. To learn more about HIPAA compliance, visit HIPAAcraticRx.