What Penalties Will You Face for HIPAA Violations?

People working in healthcare understand how important it is to follow HIPAA regulations. HIPAA was created to create a law explaining how patient data can be discussed and shared. Ultimately, it gives patients peace of mind that their private information isn’t broadcasted around the office, and it keeps healthcare workers in check while they deal with sensitive information. The folks behind HIPAA take violations very seriously, so if you or someone in your office breaks a HIPAA rule, you should be prepared to deal with the consequences. Here’s what you can expect if this situation unfolds at your company. 

Let’s Talk About HIPAA Violations

Your PHI should be encrypted, no excuses

A HIPAA violation is failure to comply with any aspect of HIPAA standards set forth by the law. There are a handful of different scenarios where this can happen, so you need to stay up to date on the rules and changes so you know how to handle the various possibilities. 

Your Data Isn’t Properly Encrypted

Your PHI should be encrypted, no excuses. This is extremely important, because it adds an extra layer of security. If your information becomes part of a breach, or the data is accidentally shared with the wrong person, they won’t be able to access it without a private key. In order to be HIPAA compliant, your data needs to be encrypted. 

Data Hacks

No one wants to hear the words “data hack,” especially when it pertains to their business. Hackers show no mercy when they attempt to steal data, and they’re almost always doing it for one of two reasons: they either want to sell your data to a third party organization, or they are using ransomware to take over your data and pressure you into deleting everything unless they are paid a specified price. Obviously, you don’t want to end up in either of these situations, so it’s a good idea to regularly update passwords, limit access, and use software. 

Unauthorized Access of Data

Your employees only need access to the information that is relevant to their specific responsibility. If a team member starts viewing patient information that they shouldn’t have access to, you could be in trouble with HIPAA. If you limit data access for each employee, you can easily avoid this HIPAA violation. 

Loss of a Business-Owned Laptop, Cell Phone, Etc.

You never want to assume that your work laptop or computer could be stolen at some point, but it is a possibility. Especially in today’s day of remote and hybrid work models, you never know when an employee may misplace or lose a device. You can’t prevent this situation, but you can control how accessible the information on your device is. If you regularly update your passwords and make sure your data is encrypted, it’s possible that even if your device is stolen or found by someone outside of your company, the person with your computer may not be able to access the sensitive data. 

Spreading Confidential Information Around the Office

Talking about a patient’s diagnosis after an appointment might not seem like a big deal, but it can become a huge HIPAA violation. The only people who should be discussing a patient are the professionals that are directly involved with that patient. Anyone else would be a HIPAA violation. Even if you trust your coworker and know they won’t spread the information to anyone else, it’s still a violation under HIPAA law. Bottom line is, keep information between those involved, no matter the circumstance. 

Penalties for Various HIPAA Violations

These violations can be broken down into 4 tiers, starting with mild repercussions and ending with big fines

The penalties for a HIPAA violation vary based on the severity of the violation. While most violations are unintentional, some are done with intent, which will change the way the violations are handled. These violations can be broken down into 4 tiers, starting with mild repercussions and ending with big fines. 

Tier 1 Violations

A first tier violation is the lowest violation, but it can still come with hugue consequences. Violations can cost anywhere from $100 – $50,000 per violation, with a maximum of $25,000 per year. 

Tier 2 Violations

The employee likely knew or should have known about the violation at hand. Violations can cost anywhere from $1,000 – $50,000 per violation, with a maximum of $100,000 per year.

Tier 3 Violations

The employee knowingly neglected their HIPAA compliance, but the issue was corrected within 30 days of discovering the error. Violations can cost anywhere from $10,000 – $50,000 per violation, with a maximum of $250,000 per year.   

Tier 4 Violations

The employee knowingly neglected their HIPAA compliance and made no effort to correct the violation within 30 days of discovery. Violations are $50,000 per violation, with a maximum of $1.5 million per year. 

Don’t Let Your Business Fall Into Violation Territory

One of the best things you can do for your business is invest in software that keeps your company HIPAA compliant. Whether you need Medicaid billing software or non-emergency medical transportation scheduling software, both have built-in software features that protect the sensitive data you deal with every day. Software allows you to be more productive in your everyday, while reassuring you that your PHI is secure and there’s no unfortunate interruptions to your process. If this is something you don’t have at your practice yet, it’s time to make the switch to a better process. iSi Technology has a host of software products built to boost efficiency and save money. Our team would love to get in touch and figure out what solution is best for your business, so give us a shout today!