In any industry where you are handling sensitive information it's important that all staff understand the rules and regulations that protect client confidentiality.
In the healthcare industry and associated industries that handle PHI (Protected Health Information), HIPAA compliance is essential for protecting your clients as well as your business. HIPAA violations are a huge concern, and can leave your business susceptible to fines and penalties. In order to ensure that you are not liable for violations it is necessary to understand how you can train your staff effectively to handle sensitive information.
The right training will help you avoid costly penalties that can ultimately harm your business and your relationship with your clients.
Who Needs HIPAA Training?
Anyone who is responsible for handling or transmitting PSI should be trained appropriately and have an understanding of the best practices and procedures to remain in compliance with HIPAA. Staff should be able to recognize sensitive identifying information so that they can handle it appropriately, and learn the best ways to transmit protected information digitally and manually. It is essential that all staff members who will be working with any form of protected information (including clients full identifying information and any medical information) understand their obligations, which is why HIPAA compliance training is typically necessary for all personnel.
Why is HIPAA Training Essential?
HIPAA violations can be extremely detrimental for your business. Not only can the penalties be expensive (according to HIPAAjournal.com penalties can range from 100-50,000,00 dollars) but depending on the severity of the offense, agencies and business can be subject to suspension or closure.
Additionally, HIPAA violations can compromise your relationships with your clients, who depend on your staff to handle their personal information with the utmost care.
What if my staff transmits sensitive information accidentally?
Improper or insufficient training will leave you subject to liability, regardless of whether a violation was committed unknowingly. HIPAA regulations are in place to protect the handling of information, and it is your responsibility to ensure that your staff has the appropriate training.
Penalties are accrued even if a staff member was completely unaware of the offense, so the onus is on your business to protect itself by providing proper training.
How are Violations Assessed?
There are multiple tiers of HIPAA violations, ranging from tier 1-tier 4, with tier 1 consisting of relatively minor violations, and tier 4 including the most severe cases. HIPAA violations are assessed using these tiers and considerations including how long the violation was allowed to go on for, and what kind of information was compromised. Willful neglect and persistent violations that go uncorrected are subject to the most severe penalties.
By instituting company-wide HIPAA training you are not only protecting yourself from the more severe violations, but you can prove that your business or agency has taken the appropriate steps to deter breaches of privacy. If one staff member has accidentally violated compliance you will be able to prove that it is not a staff-wide problem, and can demonstrate that you have a plan in place to address future concerns.
In the event of an audit, you should be able to produce documentation identifying your privacy practices, which will include staff training and information on staff-wide policies for protecting HIPAA sensitive information. Auditors do take into consideration whether a violation was committed in spite of the fact that due diligence is being practiced overall, which means you will be far less likely to receive a severe penalty when you implement HIPAA training.
How to Provide HIPAA Training
You can offer your staff HIPAA training online, or work with your HIPAA compliance officer on staff-wide training. Digital certifications are also available, so your staff can produce documentation indicating that they have received proper training.
If you work with a large staff, or your staff can't all train during the same hours, a digital solution may be easier so that everyone can train at a time and place that is convenient for them. The important thing is that everyone is on the same page, so you can demonstrate that you've taken the necessary steps to protect your clients' sensitive information.
It's also always a good idea to consult with an IT company who has knowledge about HIPAA compliance to ensure that your sensitive documentation is protected. Not all IT companies have the skills or expertise required to assist with the kind of protection you will need as a medical or healthcare provider.
If you're interested in learning more about how you can protect sensitive information in the digital age, contact us to learn how we can help!