The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) has profoundly impacted the healthcare industry, practitioners, and patients. In short, the act protects patients and their sensitive information, thus bolstering privacy.
Individuals and organizations found to violate HIPAA regulations could face stiff penalties, and practitioners could even see professional licenses and the like revoked or suspended. HIPAA compliance is vital for anyone working in the medical industry.
Let’s look at why HIPAA compliance is vital and some recent developments. It’s important to note that while we’ll cover some of the most important considerations, this article is far from exhaustive.
HIPAA Violation Cases Are On the Rise
HIPAA court cases have increased in recent years, with some prosecutors pursuing them vigorously. This is likely because HIPAA privacy rules are pretty straightforward, making it easier to demonstrate criminal liability. Juries, too, may have an easier time digesting relatively unambiguous cases.
What’s more, different authorities can pursue HIPAA cases. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) handles many complaints and can levee fines. Typically, the OCR prefers voluntary, non-punitive measures, such as issuing technical guidance.
The OCR can and does fine organizations that commit major violations, however. Since 2003, the OCR has fielded 291,366 HIPAA complaints, resolving 96 percent. In addition, the OCR has imposed civil money penalties on 106 cases, resulting in $131,392,632.00 in damages.
State attorney generals can also pursue HIPAA cases in federal courts. If violations impact residents in different states, organizations may have to settle with numerous authorities.
This is generally great news for patients and society as a whole. However, it also raises the stakes for organizations and practitioners. Run afoul of rules, and you may find yourself or your organization dragged into court.
HIPAA penalties range from $120 to $60,226 per violation with a maximum yearly cap set at $1,806,757. In addition, you could get hit with several violations stemming from the same events. Penalty ranges are regularly updated to account for inflation.
Generally speaking, deliberate or intentional violations will result in stiffer penalties than unintentional mishaps.
Could a Lax HIPAA Environment Drive Away Staff?
Typically, organizations are on the hook for HIPAA violations. However, in some cases, authorities have pursued individuals as well. As a result, organizations instituting lax HIPAA controls may lose employees who worry that they could get dragged into court or penalized.
In one case, a doctor perused hundreds of patient medical records for entertainment, never sharing or selling information. Regardless, the government argued that he had willfully broken HIPAA regulations for simply accessing records without a valid reason. Courts found the individual guilty and sentenced him to four months in jail.
The individual was clearly at fault in the above situation and went against organization guidelines. However, other situations could arise when lax policies and controls could encourage violations. Employees working in such environments may jump ship, finding safer havens elsewhere.
Don’t Overlook the Risks Associated With HIPAA Violations.
Practitioners and organizations should engage in proactive risk management when managing HIPAA rules and violations. The proper approach will reduce the risk of penalties, protecting staff and your organization. And when selecting tools, such as software, it’s vital to work with partners who take HIPAA seriously.
How PERFEQTA Can Help
We provide a HIPAA compliant version of our software known as PERFEQTA HIPAA. This version can process Protected Health Information (PHI) and can be held and processed by approved users. Not only do we keep you HIPAA compliant, but we also protect your data with a robust collection of security features to protect your patients and your business. Reach out today to schedule a demo.