Avoiding HIPAA Violations: A Guide to Secure Data Management

Melisa Assunta
6 min readFeb 14, 2023

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has imposed significant HIPAA penalties on the healthcare sector due to widespread protocol failures and insufficient security measures. Several issues, such as lax security policies, neglected risk assessment audits, internal human errors, and a staff shortage in HIPAA training, can result in the loss, hacking, or theft of patient data and sensitive medical information. More than half of the medical office staff need to gain knowledge of HIPAA requirements. This article will cover the most common HIPAA violations, potential fines, cybersecurity risk-reduction strategies, and HIPAA compliance solutions.

How is HIPAA Compliance Implemented?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was enacted into federal law in the United States. Its main goal was to combat waste, fraud, and abuse in healthcare and health insurance delivery. The Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rule must be implemented to accomplish these goals.

  • Consider using medical savings accounts by capping the amount each person can put away in a pre-tax account.
  • Describe employer tax deductions and additional sources of income subject to tax.
  • Increase the portability and continuity of health insurance. When a person changes jobs, their insurance coverage remains transferable.
  • Increasing the availability and coverage of long-term care services. This also applies to people with pre-existing conditions.

Common HIPAA Violations Factors

A few HIPAA violations factors are given below;

Inappropriate Record Disposal

Consider the possibility that any of this data is lying in the trash or a computer’s recent files folder. It might fall into the wrong hands in this situation, which would be a serious HIPAA violation. The proper disposal of PHI records is one of the crucial practices to enforce. Employees must be aware that any data containing PHI, such as social security numbers, medical diagnoses, and medical procedures, must be deleted or erased from hard drives.

Hacking

Hacking is currently the most common reason for healthcare data breaches. Medical ePHI is highly vulnerable to hacking, and many people want to use this information for nefarious ends. Therefore, healthcare organizations must ensure that their data is secure from hackers.

Malware and Ransomware

Email or clicking on a dubious link in corrupted files are two ways that a dangerous virus known as ransomware can spread. Such malicious software may not only wipe out crucial data but also bring down the entire system, which would be disastrous. The warning typically informs the business that if a certain fee is not paid, all data obtained by the device or even the entire network will be erased or made accessible to the public. Even after making a payment, there is no assurance that it will get access to its data back.

Few Steps to Secure the Data Management by Avoiding HIPAA Violations

Here are a few steps to ensure data security by avoiding HIPAA violations;

Regularly Carry Out Risk Analysis

The dangers that result in HIPAA violations include harm to one’s reputation, disciplinary action, and other unfavorable outcomes. Regular risk analyses can find security holes or weak spots in a healthcare organization, knowledge gaps among the staff, issues with the security posture of suppliers and partners, and other areas of concern. Identifying and mitigating potential risks in a healthcare organization to proactively identify and mitigate potential risks can help healthcare providers and their business partners avoid costly data breaches.

Upskill the Medical Staff

Human error is one of the biggest security risks in any sector but is especially serious in healthcare. Human error or negligence may have detrimental and expensive effects on healthcare facilities. Security awareness training equips healthcare professionals who handle patient data with the knowledge they need to make wise decisions and exercise due caution.

Smartphone Device Security

Healthcare providers and covered businesses rely increasingly on mobile devices to conduct business, whether a doctor is using a smartphone to get information to help them treat a patient or an administrative assistant is filing insurance claims. Mobile device security calls for a variety of security precautions, such as:

  • Data encryption applications, settings, and configurations are all under control.
  • Installing mobile security software is required, such as mobile device management apps. Allowing remote device locking and deletion for lost or stolen items.
  • A user’s device must have the latest operating system and software version installed.
  • Examining email accounts and attachments for malware infections or unauthorized data theft will raise awareness of proper mobile device security measures.
  • Establishing policies or allowing listing procedures to guarantee that only programs that meet criteria or have been pre-vetted can be installed.

Use Logging and Monitoring

Providers and business partners must track who accesses what data, apps, and other resources when, from what devices, and where. These data are useful for auditing, assisting companies in identifying problem areas, and strengthening security protocols as required.

Set up Restrictions on the Use of Data

Data discovery and classification are crucial in ensuring that sensitive material is identified and appropriately labeled. Data controls are tools that healthcare organizations can use to halt processes that involve sensitive data, such as web uploads, unauthorized email sends, copying to external devices, or printing. Protective data controls go beyond the benefits of access controls and monitoring to ensure that potentially harmful or malicious data activity is discovered and stopped in real-time.

Access Limitations for Applications and Data

Access restrictions improve healthcare data security by restricting access to patient data and particular apps to those who need it to perform their duties. Multi-factor authentication is a suggested approach that requires users to confirm that they are authorized to access particular data and apps using two or more validation methods. Passwords and PINs are examples of data only known by the user.

Lower the Risks of Connected Devices

Smartphones and tablets come to mind when you think of mobile devices. But as the Internet of Things (IoT) grows, connected devices are becoming available in various shapes and sizes. Everything in the healthcare industry has the potential to be network-connected, from medical equipment like blood pressure monitors to cameras used to check the physical security of a facility. To ensure adequate connected device security, follow these steps:

  1. Keep an eye out for any unusual changes in activity levels on IoT device networks that could be signs of a breach. Before utilizing non-essential services, disable or entirely erase them from the device.
  2. Ensure all patches are applied by maintaining the most recent versions of all connected devices.
  3. Maintain Internet of Things (IoT) devices on their network and employ strong, multi-factor authentication whenever necessary.

The Final Words

Many of the most prevalent reasons for HIPAA violations are employees’ lack of HIPAA training. As a result, it’s imperative to hold regular HIPAA training for staff members and continuously remind everyone of the rules. Similarly, healthcare organizations and providers must sign partnership agreements with third-party solutions to ensure data confidentiality.

Originally published at https://www.temok.com on February 14, 2023.

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Melisa Assunta

I'm a dedicated writer sharing my thoughts, stories, and insights on various topics. Join me on this literary journey as we explore the beauty of expression