What Are HIPAA Breaches That You Should Know?

[Guest Post]

HIPAA Compliance application and stethoscope on a desk. Photo Credit: Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Shutterstock

Healthcare data breaches have become a serious concern among medical facilities and patients alike. Research indicates these types of breaches are more significant threats than even financial data theft because of the sensitive and inclusive nature of the information contained in medical records. Healthcare records are growing ever more alluring to hackers due to the same reasons. In fact, reports show an uptick in healthcare information breaches of 25 percent per year over the last several years.

Protecting Against Data Breaches

Though the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 was put into effect to protect against those offenses and their consequences, it’s not an infallible plan. Quite a few facilities overlook the latest HIPAA regulations. Many inadvertently violate them altogether. That certainly results in numerous problems, not the least of which are difficulties for patients and hefty fines and legal issues for the offending medical facilities and their partners. Take a look at some of the common HIPAA violations occurring at this point.

Failing to Manage Risks Appropriately

Failing to manage the risks of security breaches is the most common infraction healthcare facilities and their partners commit. Several measures are available for keeping the dangers at bay. One of the simplest and most effective is keeping firewalls, antivirus applications, and anti-spyware installed on computers and other devices. Using complex passwords and authentication measures provide an effective line of defense as well.

Additionally, making use of encryption to keep information safe is crucial. With outdated fax machines being a prime target for hackers, incorporating HIPAA compliant faxing is required. These are only a few of the effective ways to properly manage the risks of data breaches for medical facilities as well as their patients and partners. 

Improper Management of Access to Information

Mismanagement of access to sensitive information covered under HIPAA is also a common violation. Only certain employees of healthcare facilities and other related partners should have access to patients’ data. At the same time, those individuals are only allowed to access information for specific reasons. Many employers fail to restrict access as they should, and employees have been known to delve into patients’ information for all the wrong reasons. Those infringements can result in lofty fines and jail time in addition to other consequences.

Unauthorized Discussion of Patients’ Information 

Inappropriately discussing patients’ information can also result in penalties as well as extensive problems for the affected patients. Unauthorized sharing of information can include physicians speaking with colleagues about patients’ conditions, treatments, payments, and other details.

Healthcare employees talking to friends and family members about patient information that’s protected under HIPAA guidelines is also considered a data breach. As is the case with other compliance violations, this type of misstep can lead to fines and other serious repercussions.

Safeguarding Everyone Involved

These are only a few of the most common HIPAA violations at present. Many other issues frequently arise, including failing to properly dispose of medical records, not providing patients access to their medical records as required, and even the loss of devices containing sensitive data.

One of the keys to avoiding potential compliance issues and their consequences for healthcare facilities, partners, patients, and everyone else involved is fully understanding HIPAA regulations and guidelines. From there, medical facilities and their partners need to analyze the possible risks and take every possible measure to minimize them.