As a medical provider, how often do you think about the impact of HIPAA on your standard policies and procedures? Are you handling protected health information according to guidelines? Or are you putting data and information in compromising situations daily?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the five most common compliance issues investigated include:
- Impermissible uses and disclosures of protected health information
- Lack of safeguards when dealing with protected health information
- Lack of patient access to their protected health information
- Lack of administrative safeguards when dealing with protected health information
- Lack of technical safeguards when dealing with protected health information
As a response, the American Medical Association has created a Patient Records Electronic Access Playbook to aid in helping medical professionals define the roles they have in sharing and safeguarding patient health records. It’s an attempt to place legal requirements medical organizations have to follow in one convenient format.
Why strive for voluntary compliance
The most obvious answer for establishing compliance guidelines within your practice is to avoid legal action. If you're caught with a HIPAA violation, it’s going to take time, energy, and money to overcome the impact. Your reputation may be at stake.
Voluntary compliance also allows you to establish an ethical medical practice that puts your patients first. It’s about creating guidance for handling patient information every step of the way, ensuring every touchpoint is dealt with to give patients the data they need, while guaranteeing it’s controlled in a way that doesn’t increase risk.
And then there’s security. A patient’s medical record is 50 times more valuable than their financial information. Once hackers have access to health information, they can build an entire medical persona around the health record. It allows them to seek treatment, abuse drugs, and get valuable prescriptions they can use in various ways. The lifespan of a stolen medical record is much longer than a credit card. Hackers know this, which is why they’re always on the hunt for an easy way in.
Putting patients first
Look back at the top five compliance issues OCR investigates. All of them are based on access to patient information.
How much time have you spent ensuring access to your protected health information is up to date, secure, and easy for everyone involved?
This isn’t a “do it once and never worry about again'' task. Instead, it’s a process that needs refining every step of the way. As new technology is introduced, how can you utilize it from within your practice? How can you train your employees to be more aware? How can you share information with your patients in a way that makes the most sense?
How can you avoid security risks and keep the data safe from things you don’t even know exist?
Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be.
The fact that you’re reading this says you’re taking steps in the right direction.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Think small. Do one thing today that will make the process better. Then do one more thing tomorrow. And so on.
This is a never-ending process to balance out your operations and productivity, with the safety and accessibility of your information.
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