If you work in the healthcare sector in any capacity, it is essential to understand the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, otherwise known as HIPAA, and to ensure that all your employees also understand HIPAA’s complex rules. HIPAA guidelines exist to ensure the security of healthcare information (e.g., confidential patient records). Unfortunately, following the guidelines is easier said than done, which is why HIPAA training is not only recommend but should be a considered a critical part of any health care practice.


HIPAA Aims to Reduce Data Breaches

Prior to HIPAA, which was introduced in 1996, there were no standards governing the management of medical records. With the introduction of HIPAA, two types of standards were introduced. These standards are known as the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule. The former rule established national standards to protect certain health care information, and the latter rule established national standards to address the technical and non-technical safeguards needed to achieve these privacy standards. An important aspect of HIPAA is the recognition that new technologies offer health care providers an opportunity to offer even better care (e.g., by more quickly sharing data with multiple providers and specialists) but these new technologies also raise new risks. As stated on the HIPAA homepage, “A major goal of the Security Rule is to protect the privacy of individuals’ health information while allowing covered entities to adopt new technologies to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care.”

While you may feel like you’re already doing everything possible to protect patient records, in reality, protecting patient data is more complex than often assumed. As more patient records are shared online, health care providers also face myriad of new challenges. Between 2009 and 2013 alone, there were an estimated 800 data breaches that impacted 29 million patient records nationwide. What happens when you are caught violating HIPAA’s rules? In most case, health care facilities face fines, which can range from $100 to $50,000 (with annual caps at $1.5 million). Worse yet, when health care providers compromise patient data, they also risk losing their patients’ trust.

Recommendations for ensuring you are in compliance with HIPAA include: 1.) Ensuring all new employees in your practice (from cleaning staff to doctors) undergo extensive training in HIPAA. eLeap recommends beginning with an introductory course such as HIPAA Rules and Compliance; 2.) Requiring employees to participate in refresher training on HIPAA at least once every 12 months; 3.) Designating one employee (or a team) to ensure that all new and modified HIPAA regulations are communicated to everyone in the practice in a timely manner; and 4.) Carrying out internal audits on a regular basis to ensure all HIPAA guidelines are being followed.

Recommended HIPAA Courses for Your Team

To start or scale up your HIPAA training, beyond the basics (e.g., HIPAA Rules and Compliance), eLeap also recommends two other critical following courses.

HIPAA: Mobile Device Privacy and Security: In this course, your team will learn about HIPAA as it pertains to the use of mobile devices. Specifically, this course examines how to identify mobile health security risks within the organization (e.g., how do deal with a lost or stolen device, such as a doctor’s tablet, that may hold patient data). The course also covers other issues, including risks posed by sharing patient data over public Wi-Fi networks on mobile devices.

What to Say When: You’re Asked to Compromise Your Ethics:  This video-based course explores what do you say when you’re asked to do something unethical in the workplace. While rare, there are times when health care professionals are asked to share data they should not share. This video presents different ways an employee might handle the complexity of being asked, coerced, or forced to do something that is both unethical and not in compliance with HIPAA’s strict standards for the management of patient data.

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