Rarely a day goes by without a news report of a hospital, health plan, or healthcare professional violating HIPAA. If you are an optometry practice with an in-house billing staff, you need to check things beyond just offering eye care services because the onus of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance rests on your shoulders.
Failing to comply with the HIPAA standards can lead to expensive penalties and might even affect your practice’s reputation. That’s why it is important to always ensure stringent HIPAA compliance measures. Before diving into the different ways of preventing HIPAA violations, let’s first look at the most common HIPAA violations.
Lost or Stolen Devices – Physical devices like laptops and cell phones of an optometry practice can be lost or stolen. This makes the sensitive data of patients vulnerable to malpractices.
Lack of Employee Training - All employees who come in touch with protected healthcare information (PHI) need to be specially trained to ensure absolute compliance with HIPAA. Without apt and adequate training, employees can end up violating critical security and compliance measures.
Unauthorized Disclosure of PHI - HIPAA requires the patient’s written consent before your employees can release PHI to a third party. Failing to do so can result in a HIPAA violation.
Careless Handling of Information – Do you use papers, registers, etc to record patient information in your clinic? In such a scenario, there is a high possibility of the register getting misplaced and the data getting disclosed to several other people.
Check out the top 5 practices that can help your practice stay away from violating HIPAA compliance.
1. Conduct Proper Training Programs for Employees
Conduct regular employee training to prevent HIPAA violations. Your staff needs to know about the most common mistakes and errors that can lead to HIPAA violations. As part of their HIPAA compliance training, the employees need to be made aware of the repercussions of their mistakes. Well-rounded training programs can result in lesser mistakes, thus ensuring minimum HIPAA violations.
2. Store Sensitive Patient Data Diligently
Be very vigilant and careful when filing, storing or shredding patients’ data. Making a switch to electronic health records (EHR) with HIPAA compliance software to convert paper-based medical records into electronic data is one of the best practices to avoid the misuse of patient information. This way, switching to EHR can help in reducing the instances of HIPAA violations.
3. Use Firewalls to Prevent Unauthorized Data Access
Implement technologies like encryption and firewalls on your computers and laptops in order to remotely lock the device. This will also help you destroy sensitive information using a software program in case the device gets stolen or lost. Implementing these protection measures can act as an effective backup plan and prevent the violation of HIPAA rules.
4. Make Wise and Responsible Use of Social Media
Make your employees adhere to a very strict social media policy. Make sure they do not post any information in terms of images or records, pertaining to the patient or patient information, on their social network accounts. Be very strict about this policy to avoid data breaches which could ultimately result in huge financial penalties and affect the revenue cycle management efforts of optometry practices.
5. Employ a Team of Expert IT Specialists
To avoid data breaches and other similar problems, it is recommended to have a team of IT experts who can ensure the security of all patient information. They can help you identify the vulnerabilities in your data security measures and take the necessary steps to protect you from data breaches. By doing this, not only do you safeguard the critical information of your patients but also make sure that you do not break HIPAA rules.
HIPAA violations can be caused by the tiniest and silliest of errors but it would mean facing pretty hefty and expensive fines. Not just that, HIPAA violations could also affect your practice’s bottom line and reputation. So be diligent, take necessary measures and precautions to keep your business away from HIPAA violations. CS Eye can offer excellent services and help ensure that your practice is always compliant with HIPAA. Contact us to know more about our optometry HIPAA Compliance solutions.