If your organization handles sensitive patient information, you need to comply with HIPAA. Failure to do so can result in fines and penalties. Read on to learn more about the importance of HIPAA compliance to businesses like yours.
What is HIPAA
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that establishes national standards to safeguard sensitive patient health information from being released without permission. In other words, HIPAA gives patients control over who can access and use their private health data to prevent healthcare fraud and identity theft.
Who should comply with HIPAA regulations?
HIPAA laws apply to specific organizations known as covered entities, such as:
- Healthcare providers – clinics, doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and nursing homes
- Health plans – company health plans, HMOs, and health insurance companies
- Healthcare clearinghouses – private or public organizations that convert nonstandard health information components into standard data elements
- Business associates – third parties contracted by covered entities to perform tasks requiring access to or use of personal health information
Why is HIPAA compliance important to your business?
If your organization falls into the category of “covered entities,” here are reasons why you should strive for HIPAA compliance.
Avoid hefty fines and penalties
The punishment for violating HIPAA rules ranges from informal reprimands to more severe measures, depending on the severity of the violation. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) typically uses non-punitive options, such as requiring voluntary compliance or issuing technical guidance to help organizations fix areas of weakness. However, if the violations are severe, have been allowed to go on for an extended period, or if there are multiple areas of noncompliance, financial penalties may be necessary. The HIPAA violation penalty structure is categorized into four levels:
- Tier 1 – A covered entity had no knowledge of the violation, even when a reasonable amount of care was taken to comply with HIPAA regulations. Fines range from $127 to $63,973 per violation.
- Tier 2 – A Tier 2 violation is one that a covered entity should’ve been aware of, but could not avoid even after taking a reasonable amount of care. Fines range from $1,280 to $63,973 per violation.
- Tier 3 – This violation results from the willful neglect of HIPAA regulations, but the covered entity made efforts to correct the issue within 30 days. Fines range from $12,794 to $63,973 per violation.
- Tier 4 – A Tier 4 violation is one caused by willful neglect, without an attempt to resolve the issue within 30 days of the incident. Fines range from $63,973 to $919,173 per violation.
Enhanced protection against security threats
Healthcare data is extremely valuable on the black market because it contains an individual's personally identifiable information, such as name, address, Social Security number, bank account, insurance information, and more. Cybercriminals can use this information to commit fraud, identity theft, and extortion.
In order to protect patient information, covered entities are legally required to follow physical, technical, and administrative safeguards outlined in HIPAA regulations, such as:
- Conducting workforce training and management
- Limiting access to areas and devices containing patient information
- Encrypting sensitive data
These safeguards will not only ensure that patient information is protected, but they will also help your organization comply with HIPAA regulations.
Preserve patient trust
Security breaches or lost private health information that results from human error are some of the quickest ways to lose a patient's trust or develop animosity toward your organization. By implementing and adhering to a strong HIPAA compliance program, you’re showing your patients and customers that you’ve taken the necessary steps to keep their private information safe.
When patients can trust you with their sensitive data, they’re more likely to choose you as their go-to healthcare provider.
If you want to learn how your company can be HIPAA-compliant, call our compliance specialists today.