HIPAA Violations: 6 Tips for Preventing Them


The US healthcare industry is unfortunately not immune to HIPAA violations. In 2020 there have already been 421 reported violations, and several investigations are still ongoing. The COVID-19 pandemic challenges healthcare professionals in unprecedented ways, which is why additional discretions were introduced in March.

There have been over 20 million recorded instances of health information (PHI) violations in 2020, a staggering number, considering the maximum penalty per record has gone up to $59,522 since January 2020. By knowing what is HIPAA training? It can still be done to protect patient data.

HIPAA compliance relies heavily on training. In HIPAA compliance training, employees learn how to recognize protected health information (PHI), use and disclose PHI properly, keep PHI secure, and report PHI breaches.

In most companies, employee HIPAA training is required to comply with HIPAA. A major component of HIPAA compliance is conducting annual self-audits, implementing remediation plans, creating policies and procedures, signing business associate agreements, and implementing incident management. The following are the top seven tips for preventing HIPAA violations:

1. Outsource IT services

It is not easy to comply with HIPAA due to several required and numerous recommended safeguards. Operating IT systems within a HIPAA-compliant hosting environment is the most effective way to mitigate violations. The use of in-house hosting has mixed results, but outsourcing to a reputable hosting provider that is HIPAA compliant will take care of the majority of violations immediately.

2. Change your organization’s security mindset

A covered entity’s security outlook must be changed. Security of PHI is the cornerstone of HIPAA and one of the most crucial steps in achieving compliance. You should know where to store and process PHI. Establishing a baseline for what PHI you have provides a roadmap for handling and processing PHI, thus helping define the desired state configuration.

3. Encryption

256-bit AES encryption is required for both transit and storage of health information. Inadequate protection of health information means breaking HIPAA regulations. Using an IT partner to implement technology that encrypts data efficiently with an encryption key unique to you, you can achieve encryption compliance with ease. It means no one else can access your data as only you possess the master key.

If a database or device, such as a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone, is lost or stolen, encrypting the information will render it unreadable.

4. Access Controls

As part of HIPAA, access controls are required at both a physical and a logical level. Users only have access to the computers they need for their jobs, and healthcare professionals only have access to the data they need.

Controlling user privileges through Access Control Lists is essential to enforce lock screen and logoff timeouts. Restrict physical access to restricted parts of a building, especially those containing computer systems managing PHI, most commonly data centers.

5. Ensure you document everything

HIPAA requires all business services to be documented to formulate the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved.  Companies often hire a representative to ensure the legislation is followed and processes are learned, developed, and evolved. It is important to address any concerns.

6. Planning for incidents

Compliance with HIPAA requires a business continuity plan. An administrative and technical plan is imperative in a major disaster, such as a calamity or ransomware attack that shuts down the primary data center. PHI should be backed up regularly. Quite often, restoring from a backup is the fastest way to recover from a major incident.

In a computer system outage, other technical solutions must be in place – this is often accomplished by a cloud hosting provider who can establish replica computer systems in an alternative location once a disaster is triggered.


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