Every year, over 200 million Americans visit a doctor’s office or emergency room for injury or illness. As technology and medicine continue to advance and life expectancies across the country steadily rise, Americans face an increasingly complex healthcare system.
But despite the challenges that we all face in receiving quality medical treatment, we also enjoy some of the strongest legal protection against negligent providers in any industry: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). While HIPAA compliance may seem like it’s only beneficial to insurance companies and health care institutions, you’ll be surprised at how much better protected you can be when you know exactly what HIPAA compliance entails.
This article will outline 10 ways HIPAA compliance benefits healthcare patients. By understanding the “why” and “how”, you’ll be better equipped to implement HIPAA compliance within your practice or business.
1. Patient Privacy
HIPAA’s privacy rule ensures that patient confidentiality is upheld at all times. This means that any information regarding healthcare services, treatments are given, medical diagnoses and/or health history should never be shared without the patient’s consent. You can check out the www.hipaaexams.com website to have a better understanding of these HIPAA rules.
All medical staff who have access to this data must sign a legally binding agreement stating they will protect it during their employment and after they have left the company or practice. The importance of safeguarding against unauthorized disclosure can’t be understated because these breaches can have significant negative effects on patients and can even endanger their lives.
2. Patient Safety
HIPAA compliance reduces the number of errors made during clinical procedures because it ensures all medical staff has access to correct patient information, such as blood type and allergies, at all times. It also helps ensure that any updates to this information are communicated quickly and accurately among members of a team, which in turn further reduces the potential for error and allows everyone on the care team to provide the highest possible standard of care for their patients; something we can all agree is beneficial.
3. Earning Patient Trust
One of HIPAA’s main aims is to protect patient information from falling into the wrong hands or being used by unauthorized individuals who shouldn’t hold such data (i.e., health insurance companies, employers, or other businesses). With this in mind, healthcare providers need to uphold the highest standards of patient confidentiality during their work with patients.
4. Preserving Reputations
HIPAA laws are designed to be broken down into four core regulations that govern standards around patient privacy and information security. Failing to comply with these regulations can result in significant fines and other legal sanctions should an organization fail to safeguard against unauthorized disclosures of sensitive data. This means anything from losing a job due to mishandling of private data, being sued by former employees who used company equipment to gain access to your systems without authorization, or even having representatives from HHS show up on your doorstep demanding answers if you don’t ensure HIPAA compliance.
5. Meeting Insurance Requirements
Many health insurance companies now require the use of electronic health records (EHRs). This means that all practitioners and clinics must also be fully compliant with HIPAA rules and regulations if they want to continue seeing patients within these networks. Failure to comply with this requirement, whether intentional or due to ignorance, can lead to a loss in reimbursement for services given; which could prevent you from staying afloat as a business.
6. Avoiding Fines and Penalties
As mentioned previously, failure to comply with HIPAA laws can result in significant fines and penalties being imposed on your organization. The largest fine ever levied was $4 million against New York Presbyterian Hospital after a laptop was stolen containing the private data of more than six thousand patients. There are also civil penalties that can be applied to any organization found knowingly breaching HIPAA rules, which depend on how many people had their records compromised but can run into the thousands. It’s therefore important for all businesses and healthcare providers to ensure HIPAA compliance or risk facing hefty fines not to mention damage to your public reputation.
7. Knowing When You’ve Been Breached
HIPAA requires all breaches involving the unauthorised disclosure of protected information be reported immediately. This may seem like an inconvenience but it’s actually in place so that you know what level of risk you’re at when it comes to safeguarding patient confidentiality.
Failure to do so can result in even more fines for non-compliance, which is why it’s important to ensure you’re prepared and compliant with HIPAA regulations.
8. Keeping Information Secure
HIPAA states that all electronically protected health information (ePHI) must be rendered unreadable, unusable, or indecipherable information to unauthorized individuals through the use of a technology or methodology specified by HHS. This means anything from encrypting data using SSL/TLS certificates, using security software like antivirus programs to keep your company safe from malware attacks and spam emails, not opening suspicious email attachments or clicking on suspicious links offered by unknown senders; doing everything possible to ensure all patient data remains secure at all times.
9. Meeting Industry Standards
To make things as simple as possible and ensure that all involved parties understand exactly what it means to be HIPAA compliant, certain standards and measures have been created and agreed upon by the healthcare industry. These include:
- Ensure you have a designated privacy officer.
- Train every member of your team on patient confidentiality rules and how they apply to their specific role within your organization.
- Regularly check that all systems are secure and updated to include patches for vulnerabilities.
- Regularly check your firewalls, spam filters, and virus scanners to make sure they’re up to date.
You can find detailed information on HIPAA requirements by checking out HHS’s website.
If you’re a healthcare provider or business, following HIPAA laws and continuing to meet industry standards for patient confidentiality ensures your organization is in the best possible shape when it comes to safeguarding sensitive information, which can pay dividends in terms of avoiding costly fines and ensuring patient trust. Additionally, it’s important to follow industry guidelines not just because they are required but because doing so helps protect both you and your patients from potential cyber-attacks that could leave you open to financial loss or legal penalties if data was stolen.