Compromised Health Data Takes its Toll

The insights health-care entities have about patients is extensive and issues arise when PHI is misused or is accidentally compromised. Shockingly, 78% of healthcare workers lack data privacy and security preparedness, which caused vulnerabilities that contributed to a total data breach cost to the industry of $6.2 billion in 2016, as reported by Ale Brown of Kirke Management Consulting.

This is detrimental to the businesses involved, but what are the repercussions to individuals when their health information is mismanaged? Patients may face reputational, financial, or employment-related impacts.

A prime example of employee negligence in handling sensitive information involved the insurance company Aetna. In 2017 they accidentally disclosed the HIV status of thousands of customers when they sent them a letter in a window envelope that had an opening large enough to read the letter. This was an unfortunate case where a mistake led to a privacy breach that had serious and long-lasting impacts on the people affected.

Protecting patient confidentiality is critical to ensuring people feel safe when they receive their health care. Aetna’s actions left people extremely vulnerable and exposed. Not only family, but roommates and complete strangers had access to private health information. In some cases, this caused emotional distress due to discrimination and harassment, with many people resigning from their jobs and unable to face the stigma.

So how can you ensure the sanctity of patient health information? Regulations, such as HIPAA, are vital to ensure the security and privacy of health information is top of mind for all healthcare providers. HIPAA is important to ensure that electronic personal information is collected, used, and disclosed within the appropriate technological and procedural safeguards.

Healthcare providers need to ensure that they’re following the rules and keeping patients’ well being at the center of all decisions. Aetna had to settle for $17 million. Other companies have paid more because of lawsuits or fines imposed by HIPAA violations. If we add to that the impact the breach had on reputations, the costs are substantial.

Having a privacy program in place is critical to facilitate personal health information being collected, used, disclosed, retained, and disposed of in a secure manner. This ensures your patients are protected and positions your practice to serve patients more effectively. To institute a HIPAA compliance program in your practice, turn to the experts at HIPAAcraticRx. HRx keeps you on track in a quickly changing professional landscape and specializes in servicing small- toe medium-sized independent practices.

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