Have you ever experienced being frustrated trying to get information about a loved one or a relative in a healthcare facility? Every medical staff you talk to shift the responsibility to another one, saying they’re not authorized to give information.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits healthcare facilities from disclosing any patient’s health information without their consent. For healthcare providers and all workers in the health industry, being HIPAA compliant is of utmost importance. To understand how HIPAA compliance protects your patients’ rights, you better know the common violations and how they may affect your patient’s privacy.
Common HIPAA Violations
There are many forms of HIPAA violations, but the most common ones include disclosing protected health information (PHI) to an unauthorized party.
Protected health information is a subset of health information. It includes a medical history and other personal information from your patient’s electronic records on their diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. It also includes their personal information like date of birth, social security number, and address.
Here are some common HIPAA violations:
- When a doctor discusses a patient’s situation with another doctor in the room, even if the other isn’t part of the patient’s treatment, it’s violating HIPAA.
- It’s also non-HIPAA compliance when a medical worker discloses a patient’s information to a relative or friend without the patient’s authorization.
- It’s a HIPAA violation when a health insurance provider’s staff disclosed patients’ PHI to a third party without the patient’s authorization on the file.
Unintentional HIPAA Violations
Sometimes, HIPAA violations aren’t intentional. Below are the examples:
- When a personal device is stolen with PHI or ePHI
- When an authorized third party loses a USB flash drive containing medical information of patients
- When a PHI is sent by fax or email to the wrong person
Although these violations are unintentional, it’s still an indication that the involved party lacks HIPAA compliance. Since these violations are avoidable with strict HIPAA compliance rules, parties involved may still receive fines.
Other HIPAA Violations
HIPAA violations may not always be PHI disclosure. Other types of HIPAA violations may involve the following:
- Denying patients’ requests to access their PHI
- Charging patients for copies of their PHI
- Not notifying patients within the required time of PHI disclosure to unauthorized parties, including data breaches
- Not ensuring that PHI is disposed of properly, securely, and confidentially
How HIPAA Violations Affect The Patients’ Rights
If PHI is stolen or accessed by an unauthorized party, it can cause many problems to healthcare facilities and all parties involved. Here’s how HIPAA violations can affect your patients:
- Patients’ Medical Information Can Breach Their Privacy
Since PHI contains information like social security number, date of birth, and address, it can negatively affect their lives. If this information falls into the wrong hands, unauthorized persons can use it to commit fraud. It may also expose a patient’s medical condition to their family members and the general public.
- Patients’ Information Can Be Used To Access Financial Accounts
Since PHI includes health insurance details, an unauthorized party can also access a patient’s financial accounts with medical information.
- Patients’ PHI Can Be Used To Discriminate Them
For patients with acute medical conditions, disclosing their PHI to an unauthorized party will expose their health information and stigmatize them.
- It May Negatively Affect Their Future Treatments
When hospitals deny a patient’s requests for their PHI, it prohibits them from having access to their medical history, affecting future treatments. Restricting patients’ access to their medical records makes it difficult to receive a second opinion on their treatment plan. In short, it limits their right to have control over their own medical decisions.
- Patients’ Medical Information Can Be Exposed In A Data Breach
Since patients’ medical information isn’t encrypted, cybercriminals can easily access patient’s information to create fake accounts under the patient’s name and file fraudulent claims. It’ll put your patients at risk of identity theft.
- HIPAA Violations Can Put Patient’s Security At Risk
Cybercriminals are attracted to unprotected PHI, which can be used for a variety of purposes. These include selling PHI on illegal websites. Ransomware attacks are also an example of how data breaches can affect patient security.
HIPAA compliance might be intentionally created for patient protection, but it also protects healthcare providers and related entities from legal or criminal charges and a lot more.
How HIPAA Violations Affect Healthcare Providers
HIPAA violations may affect healthcare providers and other entities involved in the medical industry in different ways. Below are some ways HIPAA violations affect healthcare providers and other entities:
- Damage To Reputation
Confidentiality and security of patient information are some of the main concerns when it comes to health care. Disclosing PHI without authorization can damage the reputation of your healthcare facility or the doctor’s office. PHI disclosure can also tarnish your patient’s relationship with you and other parties involved in their medical care.
- Legal Issues
Failing to follow the correct notification procedures for data breaches and other HIPAA violations can result in legal charges, leading to more liability loss. You may lose not only your job but also face significant fines and other severe consequences.
Does My Healthcare Facility Need To Be HIPAA Compliant?
If you own or manage a healthcare facility, you need to be familiar with HIPAA rules and comply with them. Provide training to employees and implement strict policies and procedures to prevent HIPAA violations. You should also have a business associate agreement in place with the entities you do business with such as cloud storage companies, hospitals, billing agencies, and many more.
Confidentiality and privacy are essential in the medical industry and in every field where people and organizations share sensitive information. HIPAA compliance might be intentionally created for patient protection, but it also protects healthcare providers and related entities from legal or criminal charges and a lot more.
With the correct HIPAA training, you can reduce the risk of PHI exposure in your care facility as well as the consequences that come with non-compliance. Complete HIPAA compliance is the best way to avoid violations and protect your patients’ rights.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s).
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