HIPAA violations carry severe consequences such as hefty fines or even jail time for knowingly violating the regulations. Most HIPAA violations are due to employee error rather than intentional violations. By educating yourself on HIPAA and providing HIPAA training to your staff, you can protect your employees, yourself, and most importantly, your patients from the repercussions of violating HIPAA rules. You can train your employees in these matters in several ways.
What is the aim of HIPAA training for my employees?
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By law, your business must protect sensitive information about your clients, such as health records, addresses, diagnoses, and so on. By training employees in HIPAA compliance, you can ensure that your company and employees are taking adequate steps to protect your client’s private information.
Does anyone need HIPAA compliance training?
All individuals handle patient information, such as doctors, nurses, administrators, front desk staff, and residents on rotation. The following types of companies are also required to undergo HIPAA training:
- Group health plans for employers
- Companies that offer health insurance
- Clearinghouses for healthcare
HIPAA employee training is mandatory for employees who work with sensitive health information.
How should our HIPAA training for employees be structured?
There are no specific procedures for how long training should last, but there are guidelines for what should be included. The following topics should be covered as a minimum in HIPAA training for employees:
- HIPAA: What is protected
- Protection reasons
- Information security
Educating and training your staff about HIPAA policies and procedures is the first step to keeping your organization HIPAA compliant. Although this may seem like a redundant reminder, it is vital for avoiding HIPAA violations. Organize training sessions for your entire workforce, not just new hires.
It would help if you discussed the consequences and risks of a HIPAA violation with your employees. Preparation is key to preventing such a violation. A staff member might be familiar with some words, such as “unencrypted email,” but another might not. Keeping your organization compliant with HIPAA by providing clear and precise training is crucial to preventing a breach. Make sure you know what your employees are interested in learning. Some employees may benefit from digital training, while others may benefit from hands-on training. To capture your staff’s attention, you don’t want to overload them with information.
2. Regular updates
HIPAA training once a year isn’t enough. Your responsibility is to keep your staff informed about any changes to HIPAA policies. Make sure your staff is up to date. Conduct annual testing. Keep them informed as much as possible; it can only benefit your organization.
For example, Mayo Clinic informs its employees multiple times yearly, either through grand rounds, via email, or even through the CEO. Ensure your staff understands how to comply with HIPAA regulations and changes while doing their jobs.
3. Regulation of devices
About 48% of HIPAA breaches result from stolen laptops and other electronic devices. Emphasize the need to keep PHI off of personal mobile devices. You should constantly remind your staff how to access and store electronic devices that contain PHI. Specifically, the Pharmaceutical Compliance Monitor suggests defining where devices can be transported and what should be done if stolen or lost. A secure password should also be used and changed regularly.” Refreshing portable device policies are always beneficial.
4. Social Media Training
Many people think social media is a double-edged sword. While social media can be advantageous, it can also be incredibly harmful. Develop a foolproof policy for social media and ensure strict observance. As we mentioned in our previous blog, social media is often forgotten about regarding HIPAA. However, let’s say a staff member posts a photo of their lunch on Instagram with patient records on the table or a video on Facebook with audio from the next-door patient room. It is a major HIPAA violation and may be committed unknowingly by your staff. A solid Social Media Policy is just as important as a firm HIPAA policy in ensuring compliance.
5. Ensure everybody is on the same page
Keeping your staff informed of HIPAA regulations and up-to-date with any policy changes is one of the best ways to prevent violations. There is no point in training only new employees once a year or focusing training efforts on them. In addition to holding regular training sessions throughout the year, you should test every employee on the HIPAA regulations regardless of their tenure with your company.
Keeping HIPAA policy information accessible to employees and periodically emailing it is also a good practice.
6. Identify the risks
Your HIPAA Privacy or Security Officer should conduct an internal audit to determine how your employees are doing with their HIPAA compliance. Is there a place for concerns to be raised? Understand how they may violate HIPAA without even realizing it? You can prevent future disasters by identifying any problems in your policies as early as possible. To ensure that you are relaying all information correctly, have an external HIPAA officer audit the training. Outdated laws or miscommunications can severely impact HIPAA.
There should be no doubt that healthcare providers should be able to conduct HIPAA compliance training in their workplace. HIPAA compliance is a legal requirement, but it also protects you, your patients, and your organization from malicious actors who might want to steal information and private data.
You and your patients are best served if you comply with HIPAA policies. It is best to train your staff in HIPAA rules and regulations and their practical application to avoid costly and severe violations. It covers everything from simple ways to comply with HIPAA to the best practices for using your HIPAA-compliant cloud storage system.