HIPAA Compliance in 2017 is a key issue that many doctors are focussed on.
Since 1996, the The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act has been in place, giving physicians and their teams reasons to guard their patient privacy closely.
Depending upon the type of the breach, physicians can be liable for between $100 to $50,000 for each violation. The maximum HIPAA Violation is $1.5 million for identical provisions during a calendar year. Some HIPAA violations can lead to imprisonment in extreme circumstances. This is why HIPAA compliance in 2017 is such an important factor for doctors.
To ensure that your practice has effective HIPAA compliance in 2017, here are 5 steps to follow:
1) Correct Sharing of Patient Information
If your staff discuss patients’ names, addresses and or insurance plans at check-in, you are technically breaching patient confidentiality. Make sure patients and office staff have a way to discuss insurance or change of address in private. Also, create a quiet place for phone calls to occur. Even if you’re just calling a patient to setup or confirm an appointment, it is better to do this in a private area if possible.
2) Secured Paper Files
While paper charts are slowly becoming a relic, it is important that past files are stored securely. Doctors who have moved to using an EHR for all patient records may still have old patient files that need to be transferred. Once converting from paper documents to electronic format is complete, be sure to shred any patient records before you dispose of them.
If your medical practice still uses paper documents, be sure not to leave them in unsecured or unattended areas. This includes charts, paperwork and forms that patients bring in from other practices that they are filed and stored securely.
3) Encrypted Emails
Never underestimate the importance of email encryption, even for seemingly innocent files. The use of non-encrypted email services, such as gmail, outlook, yahoo and other well known email services can cause a risk of hackers being able to access your information. For this reason, you should consider an encrypted email or file sharing service for pertinent patient information.
When sending bulk emails to patients, or many emails in a row, it is easy to overlook the address it is being sent to. You can put patients at risk and you can lose their trust, simply because you didn’t double-check your recipient address or an email attachment.
This is one of those areas where slow, steady careful checking pays off.
4) HIPAA Secured Patient Portals
If you use or are considering creating a patient portal, ensure it has secure login compliance. Any personal patient information should not be easily accessible without a username and password.
If sharing information with family members of patients, be sure to get written authorization from the patient first. A good practice is to require identity verification for password reminders. You can also remind patients to access their patient portal when they have a secure internet connection (i.e. not in public places).
5) Ensure your Telemedicine platform is HIPAA compliant
Some doctors have considered using Skype or Facetime to communicate with patients. While they are great free platforms for video chat, the reality is the weren’t designed to be HIPAA-compliant.
The challenge is that even though a doctor can ensure their Internet connection is secure, there is very little they can do to make sure everything is secure on the the patient’s receiving end.
Another alternative is to ensure the is a Business Associate Agreement in place. The same issues arise with security for text messaging, so be sure to use HIPAA compliant texting tools here as well. The solution here is to ideally use a HIPAA compliant application designed for Telemedicine.
Doctors may have several HIPAA violations without getting fined, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a negative for your practice. Having HIPAA Compliance in 2017 is as important as it has been for the past 20 years.
When doctors treating patient information caution they can and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with being HIPAA compliant.