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When Should You Promote HIPAA Awareness At Your Company?

Cybersecurity/Data Privacy

When Should You Promote HIPAA Awareness At Your Company?

"HIPAA compliance" is a term known to anyone working within the medical field — but is every employee crystal-clear on what it means or entails? If your organization is a "HIPAA covered entity," it is required to promote HIPAA awareness among the workforce — through HIPAA training as well as other measures.

Read on to learn about what HIPAA compliance training requirements are — and when and how you should promote HIPAA awareness at your business.

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What Are HIPAA Regulations And Who Is Subject To Them?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), enforced by the US Department for Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights, is a set of national standards that ensure patient privacy and confidentiality by physically and electronically safeguarding medical patients' protected health information (PHI) within the health and human services (HHS) sector.

There are several HIPAA rules, the two key ones being:

  • The HIPAA Privacy Rule (45 CFR § 164.530(b)(1)): regulates the use and disclosure of PHI by HHS professionals, limiting who can access it and with whom it can be shared (and under what conditions).

  • The HIPAA Security Rule (45 CFR § 164.308(a)(5)): safeguards how PHI is stored, shielding it from malicious hacks through administrative, technical, and physical measures.

HIPAA rules apply to healthcare organizations and agencies, as well as individuals working within the HHS industry in one of the following capacities:

  • Covered Entities: healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearing houses.

  • Business Associates: HHS business associates involved with a HIPAA covered entity — typically assisting in an administrative capacity, involving data processing/logging/analysis.

So, When To Promote HIPAA Awareness At Your Organization?

If your company is a covered entity or an HHS business associate subject to HIPAA rules, the answer is: at all times!

There are good reasons for keeping a continuous awareness of HIPAA as part of workplace culture. If your organization is subject to HIPAA compliance, you cannot afford to have your employees forget about HIPAA compliance as that's when mistakes and oversights with data security and privacy happen.

Besides, all new employees must, by law, receive HIPAA training upon joining the organization/business, followed by "periodic" retraining: that means the company should offer it on an ongoing basis.

HIPAA Training Is Mandatory For HIPAA-Covered Entities

In accordance with the HIPAA privacy rule, policy, and procedure training on HIPAA rules is required for "each new member of the workforce within a reasonable period of time after the person joins the Covered Entity's workforce." While the term "reasonable timeframe" leaves room for some ambiguity, HIPAA training should ideally be administered to employees before they are given access to PHI (truly, this makes a big difference in preventing future HIPAA violations!)

The security rule training standard expects organizations to provide security awareness training on an ongoing basis to stay ahead of ever-evolving data breach threats. As with financial institutions guarding money, medical institutions guarding data cannot have any time lapses in security measures!

Although it's not technically required by law, it is in everyone's best interest that new members of staff receive training on HIPAA at the very beginning of an employment contract. The training should encompass permissible uses/sharing of PHI, patient privacy, data security, internal policies covering privacy and security, HIPAA's best practices, and any additional job-specific training to ensure HIPAA compliance.

Penalties For HIPAA Violations

When a medical patient's PHI is compromised, it can be "nothing" — or it can be catastrophic. From having their identity stolen to having very private medical information revealed to unauthorized parties that can use it against the person: a privacy or security violation has the potential to carry devastating effects on a patient's life.

As such, courts take it into consideration just how HIPAA proactive or passive an organization had been before someone on the premises violated HIPAA rules. Legally, HIPAA violations are divided into four tiers of severity, ranging from the lightest "unaware and unable to avoid" charge (with a minimum fine of $100 per HIPAA violation) to the heaviest "willful neglect, with no attempt to correct the violation" outcome (with a minimum fine of $50,000 per HIPAA violation).

Effectively Promoting HIPAA Awareness At Work

While conducting formal training sessions is the main step, there are other useful ways to keep HIPAA awareness going at the company continuously.

Conduct Annual Re-Training

Although "periodic" re-training is open to interpretation, it is considered a best practice to conduct HIPAA retraining sessions on an annual basis. It is also useful to keep compliance webinars available year-round.

Offer Privacy & Security Training

It is recommended to provide security awareness training biannually and to issue company-wide cybersecurity updates monthly.

Give Multimedia "Nudges"

Putting up compelling HIPAA-related educational and inspirational posters and signs around the office and workstations keeps employees in a constant state of awareness. It's also important to keep employees notified of changes in HIPAA regulation via the company email newsletter.

Test Your Employees

Running test scenarios is a great way to gauge how HIPAA-compliant your employees are — for example, by hiring a phishing testing service to send them fake emails and see if they take the bait (warn your employees that something like this is coming — but don't tell them when) You can also administer quizzes to see if your employees' HIPAA knowledge is up to snuff.

EasyLlama Make HIPAA Training And Retraining A Snap!

You need a HIPAA training program for your company, but where to start?

Good news: you're already home with EasyLlama!

EasyLlama's HIPAA Compliance training as well as Data Privacy & Cybersecurity training will get the medical and the technical personnel in your company on board with HIPAA protocol in no time! With the lively, fast, streamlined, mobile-friendly modules, your workforce will walk away armed with knowledge, understanding, and commitment to the cause of keeping patient data safe from unauthorized exposure — and keeping your company safe from costly liabilities.

Written by: Maria Malyk

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