All healthcare providers must be proactive in avoiding HIPAA violations. Some attention to detail now could save you from massive penalties down the road. Following are strategies used to prevent HIPAA privacy violations:
- Pay attention to the environment.Teach staff about the importance of keeping personal health information (PHI) under wraps. For example, instead of telling the front desk that Amy Peterson needs assistance, the clinician can say, “The patient in room 7 needs help.” Make every effort to control the environment for spoken and written PHI, such as installing computer privacy screens or creating cubicles for check-in. You can even minimize the amount of verbal communication that happens with virtual check-ins and similar tools. Ensure staff stays alert and has a thorough understanding of how unintentional PHI sharing can happen, even among other providers.
- Create clear policies and training. Avoid any ambiguity when it comes to your policies and procedures. Create guidelines for social media policies, technology use and access, reporting, and other areas of HIPAA compliance. Put these guides in an accessible location where team members can easily refer back to them.
- Confirm authorization requirements. If someone asks you to share PHI, triple-check the regulations. Understand when you can and cannot disclose information to parties other than the patient, including family members, law enforcement, and colleagues who aren’t involved in the patient’s care.
- Promote privacy-first technology use. Staff members should learn basic technology privacy practices as part of their training. Ensure training covers guidelines such as avoiding the sharing of login credentials and always logging out of their accounts when away from the screen.
You can make your team’s job easier with technical features that support compliance. For example, you might set up devices to automatically log out after a short time. You can also implement a secure messaging platform that eliminates the need for nonsecure methods such as text and email.
- Keep information on a need-to-know basis. Securely accessing data is another crucial part of training. Anyone viewing PHI should have a clear reason for doing so. No one can access data out of curiosity, even their own records. Providers should never take records home with them to finish work or when moving practices. Ensure that everyone understands the limitations and requirements for accessing data.
- Go paperless. Disposal requirements can be hard to keep up with, especially in a busy office. You can simplify these requirements with virtual resources such as digital forms and paperless payments. Once you’re fully digital, you can store everything in a platform designed for compliant healthcare operations.
- Only use HIPAA-compliant tools. Remember, any business with which you disclose PHI must be capable of protecting patient data. Only work with partners who comply with HIPAA through layers of security and point-to-point encryption. Platforms designed for your line of work can address the unique demands of healthcare data privacy and help prevent violations.
Practice Management Bridge® Compliance
As part of the Practice Management Bridge platform, Rectangle Health offers solutions to simplify HIPAA compliance for healthcare providers. You can operate with confidence while knowing you have an easy way to stay updated on all requirements. Reduce the time it takes to meet compliance standards — such as HIPAA-compliant processing and mailing — freeing your team to provide excellent patient care.
If you’re ready to be proactive about HIPAA compliance, get in touch! Scan the QR code or visit bit.ly/front-office-magazine. ■
From Front Office Magazine. November/December 2023; 1(2):18