5 Things You Should Know About HIPAA

January 19, 2016
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Of course healthcare professionals should be most concerned about the health and wellness of their patients, but that’s not their only priority. HIPAA violations should also be at the forefront of the agenda. These have become more serious over the recent years, and things are beginning to get out of hand. Something as simple as sending the wrong email can cost an organization millions, damage their reputation, and cause a virtual shutdown.

Of course healthcare professionals should be most concerned about the health and wellness of their patients, but that’s not their only priority. HIPAA violations should also be at the forefront of the agenda. These have become more serious over the recent years, and things are beginning to get out of hand. Something as simple as sending the wrong email can cost an organization millions, damage their reputation, and cause a virtual shutdown. Those who are serious about patient-doctor confidentiality would do well to recognize the seriousness of the situation.

According to research, there were approximately 322 breaches in the medical sector in 2014, which resulted in nearly 6.6 million records being compromised. To add insult to injury, 94 percent of healthcare businesses have experienced at least one data breach in the past two years. This should be more than enough to convince you that your healthcare organization could be at risk. It’s important to be on guard during the current age of cybersecurity threats and violations. Here are some things you should know about the HIPAA violations occurring all around you.  

1. Everyone in the healthcare sector is at risk.

READ
How Smart Doctors Protect and Encrypt Their Patients Information

Many small organizations and clinics don’t give cybersecurity nearly enough attention because they believe they don’t have any information worth stealing. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. No one is immune from HIPAA violations and security breaches, which means that your patient-confidentiality agreement is at risk.

Depending on the severity of the breach, it could result in hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars lost, potentially shutting down your business. The problem won’t go away just because you ignore it, and you can’t escape the consequences.

2. Employee action is one of the most common forms of data breach.

Unfortunately, your workforce is a vast threat when it comes to keeping information safe. In 2014, staff mistakes counted for 14 percent of all data breaches, and that’s not including those who wrongfully shared unauthorized data out of spite or “to help a friend.”

One of the most famous cases of this dishonesty was actually from a Long Island Medical Supply owner was found guilty of repeated HIPAA violations and fraud in her organization. As a result, she was fined $1.3 million and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

3. HIPAA breaches are higher now than ever.

With the rise of cybersecurity risks came a burgeoning concern for security breaches in the healthcare sector. Thanks to largely unexplored technology, cybersecurity as a whole has raised considerably over the last few years, increasing 48 percent between 2012 and 2013, and slowly climbing since.

As a direct result of these breaches, HIPAA violations have followed suit. In other words, if you haven’t already, it’s time to put your guard up around your healthcare organization because the threat is only growing stronger. If healthcare organizations want to see those numbers decrease, they must begin within each organization.

READ
Patient-Generated Health Data: a Shift in Care Delivery?

4. Approximately 23 percent of HIPAA breaches originate from hacking.

There’s actually a database of breaches kept by the OCR called “The Wall of Shame.” This record shows that 23 percent of the largest and most devastating HIPPAA breaches came directly from hacking. The number is smaller than most people think, but it’s still an incredible threat.

The best ways to prevent hacking in your organization include:

  • Using complex passwords and updating them frequently
  • Being very picky about sharing password and account information
  • Operating with firewalls turned on
  • Installing malware scanning software
  • Routinely updating software
  • Avoiding public wireless access

A hacker getting ahold of your files is no simple matter. If they gain access to your sensitive information, those files will no doubt be compromised. 

5. The privacy of personal data, potential legal risks, and loss of intellectual property are the top concern of most executives.

If this isn’t your greatest concern as a healthcare administrator, it should be. Those who highly value the privacy of their patients recognize the cost of data breaches, which is an average of $551K to recover. In addition, the typical cost of data breaches across the entire healthcare sector could be as much as $5.6 billion every year.

HIPAA violations and data breaches should be a major concern in the healthcare industry. Upping security in these areas is the best way to ensure a sound business structure and optimum care for your patients.