5 Most common HIPAA compliance mistakes to avoid

5 Most common HIPAA compliance mistakes to avoid

If your New Jersey business handles protected health information (PHI), then it should comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This federal law is in place to protect the privacy of patients and ensure that their data is kept safe.

Unfortunately, many businesses still make HIPAA mistakes that can lead to costly fines and penalties. Don't fall into the same trap by knowing the five most common HIPAA compliance mistakes businesses make and how to avoid them.

1. Not encrypting digital records

One of the most common HIPAA compliance mistakes is failing to encrypt electronic PHI (ePHI), especially on mobile devices.

To properly protect patient information, implement encryption methods that meet or exceed the standards set forth by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). For data at rest, you should meet NIST Special Publication 800-111; for data in transit, you should meet NIST Special Publications 800-52 and 800-77. This enables you to maintain the confidentiality of ePHI at all times.

2. Not providing HIPAA training to employees

Training all staff members who have access to PHI is important because everyone who comes into contact with this type of information should understand how to handle it correctly and keep it secure. For instance, they should understand how to securely store and access data, know how to secure devices and accounts, and be familiar with the different strategies cybercriminals use to steal data. If your staff does not have these skills, a breach could easily occur due to employee negligence, leading to HIPAA violations.

Training should also be ongoing and updated as new regulations take effect.

3. Not disposing of PHI or ePHI properly

The HIPAA Security Rule requires all covered entities to hold all records that contain PHI or ePHI for at least six years. Note, however, that some federal regulations and state laws may have different rules regarding the length of retention.

When the time comes for your business to dispose of PHI or ePHI, you must ensure to do so properly to avoid breaking HIPAA rules. This means shredding any paper records and permanently deleting any digital files from all of your systems.

Some businesses make the mistake of simply deleting files. This is not enough, as someone with the right knowledge and tools can still recover deleted files and access sensitive data.

4. Not undertaking regular organizational risk analysis

There are many aspects to HIPAA compliance, and sometimes, organizations miss a crucial step such as conducting risk analysis.

As part of HIPAA compliance, covered entities are required to regularly assess their risks and put strategies in place to mitigate them. This includes identifying all potential threats and vulnerabilities, assessing the likelihood and potential impact of each one, and implementing security measures to reduce the risks.

Risk analysis should be done at least once a year, but you should do it more often if there have been changes within your organization that could impact the safety of PHI or ePHI.

5. Denying or exceeding the timescale to provide patients access to their health records

HIPAA gives patients the right to request copies of their health records, and covered entities must comply with these requests within 30 days of receiving them. Denying a patient access to their records or taking too long to fulfill the request can result in HIPAA penalties.

To avoid this violation, have a clear-cut process and specific timelines for handling patient requests. Also, make sure that your staff knows how to follow this process strictly to avoid any delay.

Online Computers can help you avoid these mistakes and be HIPAA-compliant
Online Computers is one of New Jersey's most trusted managed IT services providers. We have teamed up with compliance software experts and created The Guard®, an all-inclusive compliance solution.

The Guard® is a simple, affordable, and comprehensive package that covers every legal aspect of HIPAA compliance, from risk assessments to intuitive training to incident management to breach support.

By completing your HIPAA prerequisites with The Guard®, you will earn the Seal of Compliance, which demonstrates that your organization has made every effort to comply with HIPAA standards and that you possess the documentation to prove it.

Your practice can easily avoid making HIPAA mistakes if you have the guidance of IT professionals who specialize in compliance. If you're interested in learning more about how Online Computers can help your organization be HIPAA-compliant, contact us today. We'll be happy to get you started on the path to compliant healthcare IT.

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