Five Reasons To Care About Your Medical Practice’s Data Privacy

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Most think data privacy only affects large companies like Google or Facebook. But the truth is, your medical practice can be just as vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data theft if you’re not careful.

So why is it so important for medical practices to protect their data? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons below:

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1. What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires covered entities, like medical practices, to take steps to ensure the privacy of patient data. This includes implementing physical, technical, and administrative safeguards to protect patient information from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.

Privacy Safeguards

These safeguards include completing an internal controls evaluation, encrypting patient data, and implementing a secure destruction policy for confidential information.

HIPAA Compliance is Not Optional

HIPPA is a substantial federal law that’s designed to protect patient information. And it’s not optional – if you’re a covered entity, you must comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Healthcare providers who do not comply can be subject to civil and criminal penalties for themselves and their organization.

HIPPA Violations Are Costly

In 2012, Rite Aid Corp. was fined $1 million for violating HIPAA. The violations occurred when Rite Aid employees accessed and shared the personal information of more than 6 million patients.

And in 2017, CVS Health Corp. was fined $2.5 million for HIPAA violations. The company allegedly allowed its employees to access the protected health information of more than 6 million patients without proper authorization.

These are just two examples of the many fines levied against companies for violating HIPPA. And while each case is different, they all have one thing in common: they’re expensive.

2. Privacy Rules

The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information. The Rule gives patients the right to access their health information, restrict specific uses and disclosures of their information, and request corrections to their medical records.

The Right To Access

Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, patients may ask to see and receive copies of their medical records, including x-rays, test results, and doctor’s notes. Patients may also request that their medical records be sent to another person or organization at any time. Under the rule, these records must be provided within 30 days of the request.

The Right To Request Restrictions

Patients also have the right to request restrictions on how their protected health information is used or disclosed. For example, a patient may ask that medical records not be released to his insurance company. Or, a patient may request that her medical records be sent to her by mail instead of fax.

The Right To Request Changes

Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, patients have the right to request changes to their medical records. For example, a patient may ask that a mistake in his medical record be corrected or that information that is no longer accurate be removed.

3. Insurance Claims

Like most people, you probably have health insurance through your employer. And if you have health insurance, you’ve probably had to file a claim at some point.

When you file a claim, your insurance company will request information from your medical provider to process the claim. This information may include your medical history, diagnoses, treatments, and test results.

Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, your medical provider must get your permission before releasing this information to your insurance company. Without your consent, your medical provider cannot release any information about you to your insurance company.

4. Secured Patient Data

Under the HIPAA Security Rule, covered entities must take steps to protect electronically protected health information from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. This includes ensuring that electronic health information is stored in a secure location and is only accessible to authorized individuals.

The Security Rule also states that covered entities must have policies and procedures to protect electronic health information from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. All employees with access to electronic health information must follow these policies and procedures.

5. How To Prevent Cyber Attacks

As a medical practice, you are responsible for securing your patient’s protected health information through an internal controls evaluation and other methods. And with the rise of cyber attacks, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your data is secure.

There are a few steps you can take to protect your data from cyber attacks:

  • Educate your employees about cybersecurity and the importance of protecting patient data.
  • Implement security measures, such as firewalls, encryption, and an internal controls evaluation to protect your data.
  • Keep your software up to date with the latest security patches.
  • Monitor your network for any suspicious activity.
  • If you suspect your data has been breached, report it to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services immediately.

Final Thoughts

Because of the detailed data rights given to patients through HIPPA, medical practices need to understand the law clearly. Not only will this help you avoid hefty fines, but it will also protect your patients’ rights.

Educating yourself and your employees on HIPAA can ensure that your medical practice complies with the law. Cyber Security should also be taken seriously to avoid any type of data breach that could release patient information.

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