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Common HIPAA Violations

Top 10 Most Common HIPAA Violations to Avoid

As a long-standing safeguard to protect sensitive patient information, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates compliance for all healthcare organizations. Failure to adhere to HIPAA regulations can result in fines and even legal action. If you're a healthcare organization, you must know the rules to ensure you follow HIPAA compliance and avoid repercussions. Here are some of the most common HIPAA violations healthcare organizations should be working to prevent.

  1. Accessing Healthcare Records outside of the Privacy Rule

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    HIPAA gives healthcare providers access to patients' health records under the Privacy Rule. However, viewing or obtaining healthcare records of acquaintances, family, neighbors, and coworkers not under current care is one of the most common HIPAA violations. These violations can result in termination of employment and even criminal charges. In addition, the healthcare organization could face financial penalties.

  2. Inadequate ePHI Access Control

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    Only individuals covered by the HIPAA security rule are allowed to access electronic protected health information (ePHI). This applies to physicians or medical staff who can inadvertently access ePHI that they do not have authorization to view. Failure to implement appropriate ePHI access controls violates HIPAA laws and can carry hefty penalties.

  3. Lack of Risk Management Process

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    One of the most important things a healthcare organization must do is perform a risk analysis. Without one, the organization cannot determine if any vulnerabilities would affect the availability, confidentiality, and integrity of electronic protected health information (ePHI). Any risk management failures can result in HIPAA fines.

  4. Mishandling of Data

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    Failing to encrypt or appropriately store data can result in a significant security breach, effectively giving criminals access to thousands of healthcare records. Healthcare institutions must protect themselves against cyber attacks. While failure to encrypt data isn't a HIPAA violation, any incident involving data breaches may be considered a reportable security incident and are subject to a fine.

  5. Failing to Report a Data Breach

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    Should a healthcare organization uncover a data breach, it must be reported promptly, by 60 days after the discovery. If the breach affected more than 500 people, it must be reported to the OCR (Office for Civil Rights). Institutions may incur a fine if the breaches aren't reported within the 60-day deadline. To avoid HIPAA violations, the company must define a standard internal reporting policy for all relevant officials, ensure all details are sent to the OCR, report the breach to a relevant media outlet, and post information about the breach on its website.

  6. Device Theft

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    A stolen or lost device often results in the loss of protected health information (PHI). These devices usually contain sensitive data that criminals could use in cyber crimes, such as identity theft or medical fraud. In many cases, device theft is because of a lack of device policies or poor physical security. Any access to sensitive medical data from a stolen or lost device can fail HIPAA compliance.

  7. Improper Disposal of PHI and Other Data

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    Poorly-trained healthcare workers sometimes make the mistake of improperly disposing or discarding of medical records. It commonly occurs when physical copies of medical records are discarded without attempting to destroy sensitive information or being properly wiped. Medical data disposed of inappropriately often carries the risk of unauthorized medical disclosure. While it may not be a common violation, it carries heavy fines.

  8. Denying Patients Access to Medical Records

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    According to HIPAA requirements, patients have the right to access their medical records. Providers that refuse to provide medical records within a 30-day time frame can be subject to major fines. If medical records aren't readily available, the provider can file a 30-day extension, but the provider must inform the individual of the reason for the delay. Companies also violate HIPAA if they charge an extra fee for patients to access the requested copies of medical records.

  9. Failing to Require Business Associate Agreements

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    Almost all healthcare organizations collaborate with third-party businesses, giving them access to PHI. Under HIPAA, any third-party organization that accesses PHI must follow specific standards. Before entering into a service agreement, contractors must enter into a business associate agreement (BAA) before they can access any data. Any organization that fails to require a BAA before giving access to data directly violates HIPAA.

  10. Lack of HIPAA Compliance Training

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    All HIPAA-covered entities must provide and document privacy and security training for employees. Lack of documentation can result in a penalty if the government decides that the training of their employees is inaccurate. Training should be performed during the hiring and training process, at any time job responsibilities change, on an annual basis, whenever there are new HIPAA updates, and during any change in hospital security policies.

Ensure Your Organization is Following HIPAA Compliance Regulations with Healthcare Compliance Pros

Following HIPAA standards is a burden that many healthcare organizations carry. Let Healthcare Compliance Pros help. We help you with a HIPAA compliance program that gives you peace of mind, ensures that you follow HIPAA rules and regulations, protects you from violations, and helps you stay updated on the ever-changing laws. Request a consultation to learn more.


Chad Schiffman | Director of Compliance & Risk Management