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HIPAA Violation Examples – WheelHouse IT

With fines reaching $50,000 per occurrence and a maximum annual penalty of almost 2 million dollars, it’s imperative to ensure your medical practice is HIPAA compliant at all times. While every possible violation should be considered a threat to your company however some come up more than others do in today’s worldwide technology-driven society with its ever-connected gadgets where everything seems accessible from anywhere no matter how secure they may seem on any given day.

HIPAA is a federal law that regulates the privacy, security, and human resources of health care providers. While it’s designed to ensure your sensitive information remains safe from prying eyes – many people have found ways around these laws before you even get started! 

15 Most Common Hipaa Violation Examples

Here are the 15 most common examples of HIPAA violations:

Accessing PHI from Unsecured Location

When it comes to the security of your employees’ personal information, you can’t afford any leaks. That’s why we recommend that all staff members keep documents with PHI in a secure location at all times and physical or digital files should be locked away from prying eyes or digital access alike – encrypted whenever possible!

On the other hand, failure to keep a record of the protected health information of patients is a common violation of HIPAA. It is also common to neglect to follow the privacy and security policies of a patient’s provider. For example, a doctor or any authorized individual might not be able to protect their patient’s information if the doctor doesn’t want to keep it. Keeping patient records will help protect the patients’ privacy and well-being.

Lack of Encryption

Encryption is a simple way to protect your patients’ data. If you lose or steal the device that contains their information, they will be protected from malicious hackers who want access at any cost! Even if an individual’s password were somehow compromised on another system (such as hacking incidents), encryption would keep them safe because only those authorized with special decryption keys can unlock it; making misinformation impossible when trying to compromise someone’s personal info via this route.

Getting Hacked OR Phished

Medical practices must take every reasonable step to protect against common hacking methods. Keeping antivirus software updated and active on all devices containing ePHI is a great place to start, as well as using firewalls with strong passwords that are changed frequently will provide additional protection for your practice’s information assets in this ever-changing world of cybercrime.

Employee dishonesty

Some of the most common HIPAA violations are snooping on health care records and not notifying patients. While this is a clear violation, the ramifications of this action are often not as obvious. There are some common ways to violate HIPAA, however, and these can lead to disciplinary or corrective action or even lawsuits.

Unauthorized Access

One of the most common HIPAA violations is unauthorized access to patient data. Employees must take care not to give access to health information to coworkers who may not have the same access rights.

If an employee is caught accessing a patient’s health information without authorization, the healthcare provider can face hefty fines, and the state attorney general can order an investigation into the breach.

Loss or Theft of Devices

Another common violation involves lost company devices. Medical practices must ensure that their devices are secure by installing encryption, multiple passwords, and other theft-deterrents. Limiting access to devices and data based on employee status and job function helps prevent loss or theft of sensitive medical information.

Unauthorized release of information

If a patient’s medical records are shared with an employee, it is also a HIPAA violation. The information contained in the medical records is confidential. If someone has access to private health information without permission, they can face big fines. This is the most common HIPAA violation and should be avoided at all costs. Luckily, the Office for Civil Rights conducts investigations into data breaches. The Office of Civil Rights can also conduct an investigation, so it’s important to keep employees and other employees abreast of the law.

A recent case involved a Texas hospital employee who accessed 596 patient digital files for personal gain. The violation was not intentional and was made with the best intentions. If the same situation occurs at your facility during healthcare operations, you must act immediately to protect patient privacy. If you don’t comply, HIPAA audits will likely be ineffective and could lead to criminal charges. Moreover, if you haven’t taken steps to ensure compliance, you’re likely to be subject to the same penalties.

Lack of Employee Training

Regardless of whether you’re a small or large healthcare provider, HIPAA can be a complicated process. It’s easy to get confused by all of the regulations. Even if you have a clear understanding of the law, mistakes can still occur. Here are some examples: negligently handling patient information, social media (like a Facebook post), and texting on a mobile device.

The same rules apply to social situations. While these situations can lead to huge fines, preventing these violations is not impossible. Investing in proper compliance training and education will help to prevent HIPAA violations. And starting in 2019 there are stricter audits and guidelines to follow.

In addition to the legal issues, several other potential HIPAA violations may affect your business. An example of a potential violation would be, if you have a computer that has a password-protected patient file, you must make sure the password is not visible to anyone except the employees. This violation will cost you dearly. Therefore, it’s important to invest in proper HIPAA training and education for your employees.

Gossiping or Sharing Information

If you are a care provider with access to patient health information need to be careful about what they discuss when talking outside work. Even vocalizing certain topics or accidental disclosure can result in violation fines or other penalties so it’s best not to broadcast anything related unless necessary!

Disposal of PHI

It’s possible to violate HIPAA by using a computer that contains protected health information in an unsafe way. Some of the most common HIPAA violations involve social media platforms, (such as social media posts), and texting. In some cases, it involves improper disposal of records. If these things happen, the penalties can be steep. These violations can lead to costly civil lawsuits. You and your business associate should take steps to avoid them.

Failure to Perform an Organization-Wide Risk Analysis

HIPAA compliance requires thorough risk analysis. This means looking at every aspect of your organization from top to bottom. There are many ways to do this but one of the simplest methods is to conduct a comprehensive audit. 

Failure to Manage Security Risks Lack of a Risk Management Process

The security risks associated with healthcare data are significant. They include theft, loss, unauthorized use, misuse, unencrypted storage, and unapproved sharing. To manage these risks, you must develop a comprehensive plan. This includes defining policies, procedures, and protocols. You must also establish a system to monitor and enforce compliance. A good place to start is by conducting a risk assessment.

Failure to Enter into a HIPAA-Compliant Business Associate Agreement

You must enter into a business associate agreement (BAA) with each company that provides services to you. The BAA defines how both parties will share information and protects the privacy of patients. It also ensures that any breach of confidentiality is handled appropriately.

Impermissible disclosure

An “impermissible” disclosure occurs when someone discloses medical information without permission. Examples include disclosing a patient’s name, address, telephone number, email address, Social Security number, date of birth, diagnosis, treatment, or payment status.

3rd Party Organization Disclosure of PHI

The importance of keeping your private information confidential can’t be overstated. If you discuss PHI with those who do not have the right to know, it is a direct violation of HIPAA and could result in fines or even worse – imprisonment!

The Enforcement Rule is a serious matter. If healthcare employees violate it, OCR can levy fines anywhere from $100 per instance to as much as half a million dollars for anyone’s mistake!

NOTE: Before any of a patient’s PHI can be disclosed to a third party for a purpose other than one expressly permitted by the HIPAA Privacy Rule, an authorization form must be obtained from them. Only the exact person who signed the authorization form can get information about a person. Thus, it is critical to review authorization documentation because patients can authorize the release of only certain types of information to specific parties.

To avoid this, keep all vital information confidential and only discuss it with authorized individuals behind closed doors. Similarly, delayed response to patients’ requests for a copy of their medical records can also be considered a violation.

Patients without authorization: a physician had accessed the medical information of celebrities and other public figures without authorization, leading to an investigation.

Response to the patient’s request for medical records needs to be made within 30 days. Failure to respond within 30 days is considered a violation.

HIPAA requires that PHI be shared only when “necessary” – that is, HIPAA-covered entity or business associates must make a reasonable effort to ensure that only the information required to complete a task or perform a job is accessed or shared with authorized persons or classes of individuals, which is another tricky requirement that can lead to violations.

Call Us To Learn How You Can Be HIPAA Compliant

In addition to the above violations, many other HIPAA violations aren’t as obvious. The most common HIPAA violation is the mishandling of patient records. Clinics should keep these records in locked rooms. If the clinician leaves the paper records in the room of a patient, it is a violation of HIPAA. In this case, the employee’s employer can be fined as well.

As a result, HIPAA-covered entities must conduct regular HIPAA compliance reviews to ensure that HIPAA violations are discovered and corrected before regulators become aware of them.

When potential risks and vulnerabilities are identified, covered entities and business associates must decide which measures to implement based on the size, complexity, and capabilities of the organizations, the existing measures already in place, and the cost of implementing additional measures concerning the likelihood of a data breach and the magnitude of the harm it would cause.

For more information please give us a call at (877) 771-2384

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