What is a HIPAA Violation?
To understand what a HIPAA violation is, you will first need to understand what HIPAA compliance is. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which was introduced to protect sensitive patient data. Any company like a medical provider, insurance company, or clearinghouse must follow measures to ensure full security of both digital and paper records that contain sensitive information about their patients. Failure to adhere to HIPAA is a violation.
What is a Violation of the HIPAA
Some HIPAA violations occur accidentally, but sometimes they can be deliberate. Only staff with a valid reason to look at a patient file are permitted to do so. That does not stop some staff members from accessing the files of people that they know, which is a direct violation of HIPAA and an invasion of privacy. According to the experts at Find-A-Code, this type of violation is one of the most common, with many staff members citing that they did not realize snooping on patient files to be non-HIPAA compliant.
Those found accessing a patient file without a legitimate reason will almost certainly have their employment terminated. If the medical facility were reported for this breach, it could mean financial penalties as well.
Failure to implement or manage patient data security is another example of a HIPAA violation. It is the responsibility of the management to ensure that proper security measures are used and that any risks to security are identified and dealt with immediately. Failure to do this can mean hefty fines.
Medical providers must also ensure that patients can access their own medical records should they wish; failure to do this is a violation. Patients have the right to share their files with other medical providers and individuals, so those holding their files must release them within 30 days of a request being made.
It is the responsibility of staff to ensure that all patient files are always secure. Not safeguarding paper records by leaving them unattended and accessible by third parties is a breach. The same is true for those who leave patient files open on their computers. Employers must adequately train staff on how to securely handle patient information at all times.
What are the Penalties for HIPAA Violations?
Both individuals and entities can be penalized for violating the HIPAA. The penalties can be quite severe in terms of both fines and prison sentences, depending on the severity of the offense. Even accidental violations come with heavy penalties.
For example, a staff member who violated the HIPAA through forgetfulness or not realizing they were doing something wrong could face a civil penalty. Even where there is no malicious intent and they were unaware they were violating it, an individual can be fined up to $100 for every violation of the Act. Individuals could face civil penalties of up to $50,000 if they acted with willful negligence and did not take steps to rectify their mistake.
For those who act with malicious intent, the penalties are much more severe and could include prison sentences. The most severe penalties are reserved for those who violate the HIPAA for personal gain. They could face ten years in prison as well as a fine of up to $250,000.
HIPAA violation is a profoundly serious and whether deliberate or not, judges take a very dim view of it, imposing harsh penalties to those who breach the rules. It is important therefore that those responsible for dealing with sensitive patient information always keep it safe and secure, implementing measures to ensure there is no risk of it being accessed by unauthorized third parties.