The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, was established in 1996. Ever since its enactment, it became clear that such a law was necessary to uphold privacy and security of information as well as enforce standards for health information.
It also aims to minimize healthcare fraud and abuse, and the law has evidently achieved its purpose. But as important as it may be, the HIPAA only requires healthcare facilities and practitioners to follow the HIPAA Compliance rules. There’s no law requiring healthcare employees to undergo regular training, nor does it require health practitioners to obtain certification proving your compliance. So, is there really something to gain by doing these?
Contrary to common belief, there are some merits in going above and beyond the call of duty to take training courses and obtain certification. Below are five examples of these advantages.
- Training Can Prevent The Possibility Of Violation Fines
The law states that healthcare facilities must comply with the HIPAA. Upon violating the act, the facility or the organization will have to pay violation fines, which can be as low as USD$100 or as high as USD$50,000. It doesn’t matter whether the violation was intentional or not, which means if one employee makes a mistake, the whole facility may have to take responsibility. Take note that this applies to other types of organizations and individuals, such as:
- Healthcare Providers
Any organization or individual that provides immediate medical treatment to patients must be HIPAA-compliant. These may include doctors, nurses, and even medical students.
- Mental Health
Organizations or individuals that provide assistance to patients regarding their mental health must also comply with HIPAA. These may include psychiatrists or psychologists.
- Business Associates
Companies that manufacture products or provide services to healthcare providers or consumers are also covered by the rules indicated in the HIPAA.
- Insurance Brokers and Agents
Companies involved in health insurance administration must also comply with HIPAA.
Employees often interact with patient information, and every interaction carries a chance to make mistakes and expose information. This is especially true for employees with little to no knowledge of the HIPAA, which, unfortunately, is quite common. Not to mention there are several ways to unintentionally violate HIPAA. For instance, throwing out documents consisting of patient information into trash cans instead of shredders is already a violation. Talking about patient information in a public space also merits a violation and, worse, jail time.
While it may not completely eliminate the possibility of human error, allowing the workers in a large enterprise to undergo training would go a long way in minimizing this possibility.
Furthermore, to undergo training and obtain corresponding certificates, one only needs a computer and an internet connection. It also only takes around one to two hours to complete the training from start to finish. Considering how USD$50,000 is at stake, spending that much time on training your workers isn’t only the right decision but is also a cost-effective option.
- Employee Training Minimizes Accountability
Healthcare providers often face all sorts of lawsuits, especially when entitled patients aren’t satisfied with the services in the facility. It’s quite a common occurrence in this industry. While most of the time, these lawsuits don’t go in the way of the plaintiff, it grants the federal agency handling the case the right to investigate the facility. When that happens, it can go south very quickly, especially if they find out that the said facility hasn’t provided any training to their workers.
This is mainly because ‘not providing training’ is considered willful neglect, which is one of the main criteria for deciding which side was at fault. Here’s a look at how it usually goes:
- When the facility was unaware of the problem, and there was nothing they could’ve done to avoid the violation, they would face little to no punishment.
- If the facility was likely aware, but there was still nothing they could’ve done, the court would rule to punish the healthcare provider lightly.
- Once it has been determined that the facility was aware of the problem, the punishment would become more severe unless, of course, they’ve attempted to correct the issue.
- If there were no attempts to resolving the issue, the punishment would be severe.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for enforcing the HIPAA. They’re also in charge of carrying out punishments to those who violate the rules.
Naturally, if the facility faces a lawsuit, it’s best to minimize the damage by proving that it was an honest mistake and there was nothing they could’ve done to avoid it in any way. In other words, an organization can protect itself and its staff from lawsuits, and other charges, for that matter, by simply having done HIPAA training or obtaining a certificate.
- Certification Can Add To The Organization’s Credibility
Just like how being HIPAA compliant doesn’t require one to obtain certification, having a certificate also doesn’t mean an organization is HIPAA compliant. The main purpose of these certificates is to simply add to the credibility of an individual or organization. It’s not necessary, and it doesn’t make the company any less guilty of charges they may face in the future, but it sure does help boost its image. Moreover, since they are available as soon as an employee finishes training, there’s no reason not to take the certification.
Take note that HIPAA certificates are good for two years, although that may vary according to the state and the training provider. It’s also worth noting that since training can consist of different courses, an individual may receive separate certificates for each course completed.
- Organizations Can Protect Themselves From Hackers
The main purpose of HIPAA is to ensure that healthcare providers are keeping protected health information, or PHI, as secure as possible. This is mainly because PHI is one of the most valued information that can be sold on the dark web, as it contains the following data:
- Date of death
- Date of admission/discharge
- Telephone Number
- Email address
- Social security number
- Health plan beneficiary number
- Account number
- Vehicle identifiers (license plate numbers, serial numbers, etc.)
- IP address
- Biometric identifiers (fingerprints, face, voiceprints, etc.)
- And many more
The excessive amount of data contained in one file explains why hackers are persistent in taking over a hospital’s network system. With only the PHI file of one patient, they can earn hundreds of dollars. What more if they can access a whole year’s worth of information?
Furthermore, the number of security breaches in healthcare systems has increased a lot due to the recent worldwide crisis. On the bright side, there are several ways to combat these hackers, one of which is by training employees on how to handle PHI more securely. Simply put, by training your employees, not only can organizations protect themselves, but they can also protect their patients.
- Patients Are More Likely To Use Your Organization For Healthcare
It’s a common understanding in the business world that satisfaction is what drives more sales. If customers are satisfied with its products and services, they’re more likely to come back for more. This applies to pretty much all types of businesses, including healthcare providers. Hence, if a healthcare facility wants to increase its revenue, it must first improve the satisfaction of its patients, and one way to go about this is through HIPAA training.
For one, training allows workers to handle protected information securely. Moreover, as stated earlier, training can minimize the possibility of security breaches, which is perhaps one of the fastest ways for patients to foster animosity towards an organization. By maximizing the satisfaction of patients, healthcare providers can stay afloat in this competitive industry.
How Can One Undergo HIPAA Training And Obtain Certification?
If an organization wants its employees to undergo training, the first thing that it must do is to look for a HIPAA training provider. There are plenty of providers on the internet, so the choice would be up to the company’s executives. Once the company decides on a provider, they must schedule a date for the training. Of course, this training doesn’t come for free. Each session may cost around USD$25 per person, which should be a good enough deal.
Take note that there are several courses for HIPAA training: the awareness course and the security course. Of course, there are other courses out there made by other providers, but these two courses are what organizations must prioritize. Here’s an in-depth look at these courses:
- Awareness Training Course
If a company wants its workers to undergo training, this should be the priority. The awareness training course goes over the healthcare employee’s responsibilities to protect patient information. It also explains the basic components of the HIPAA, so it’s best to start with this course before moving on to more advanced courses.
- Security Training Course
The security training course is more of a supplementary class that further enhances the employee’s knowledge of HIPAA. It talks about the technical aspects of handling PHI, such as securing networks, encrypting data, creating backups, and the likes. It’s not as necessary as the previous course, but it works well if taken by the company’s IT staff.
If an organization intends to provide training to their employees as part of their onboarding process, it would be best to simply adapt a training course of their own. By doing so, the enterprise can save money on training. Plus, it also allows the company to organize regular training for its workers, which can further minimize the possibility of HIPAA violations.
Training has always been a vital part of managing an organization. By providing training to employees, a company is effectively enhancing its productivity, employee retention, and many other aspects. Unfortunately, many healthcare facilities underestimate the importance of training. But now that security breaches have become a lot more common, healthcare providers must prepare themselves by equipping employees with the necessary skills and knowledge.