Avoid These 3 HIPAA Release of Information Traps
There are a number of HIPAA release of information traps that can catch an ill-prepared hospital or medical office off guard, especially amid the frequent changes to rules, regulations, policies and procedures related to the reproduction and/or transmission of confidential medical records. It is important to know the common mistakes and how to avoid them in order to ensure smooth operations, limit liability, and maintain an excellent reputation within the industry.
Common HIPAA Issues
Here are three prevailing pitfalls related to HIPAA release of information:
- Security Breaches: Because HIPAA is focused on privacy and security relating to personal data that is transmitted electronically, conventional thinkers would assume all health care-related businesses have tight security processes in place. However, this is not the case. If anything, heath purveyors are at risk for a myriad of security breaches, including password protection, hackers, firewall dismantling and improper transmission of sensitive information to a recipient. Even those with presumably tight security measures should remain diligent to identify new threats and not fall victim to complacency.
- Quality: HIPAA requires that medical records be accurate and complete when being copied or transmitted electronically. Yet, so often, medical offices struggle to maintain quality and data integrity, especially when records are duplicated or copied more than once. Moreover, when multiple hard copies of sensitive files are available, the company is again at risk of the aforementioned security breaches and liability exposure. Digital document management is best for HIPAA-compliant archiving, replication, and transmission.
- Records Destruction: Sometimes duplicate copies that have been made, or entire files, need to be destroyed, but staff members may not realize that there is a specific HIPAA-driven protocol that must be followed. This process includes specific steps to ensure complete protection and privacy of information leading up to the destruction and a log that tracks exactly what duplicate, records, or files have been destroyed. Medical records must be kept for at least seven years, and those involved in a criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding must be kept until all matters are resolved - even if this is past the seven-year date.
How to Minimize Mistakes
In order to minimize HIPAA release of information mistakes, consider these tips:
- Devise a strict security policy that is focused on ongoing security software upgrades and checks to ensure the business doesn’t fall victim to viruses, hackers, or other high-tech security vulnerabilities.
- Develop and implement a quality control process that accounts for possible human error across all phases of the medical record information release process.
- Enact specific policies and procedures for destroying records so that all staff understands each step that must be completed to comply with HIPAA guidelines.
The most effective way to avoid HIPAA hazards is to retain an outside release of information service provider. These specialized companies know HIPAA rules and regulations inside and out, and they will ensure compliance throughout the entire record release and/or destruction process. Such a resource also offers additional operational benefits, including increased in-house staff productivity, efficiency, and job satisfaction.
In reviewing how to avoid getting snared in a HIPAA trap, remember these points:
- The most common mistakes involve security breaches, data reproduction issues, and records destruction “don’ts.”
- These mistakes can be minimized by creating a framework for avoiding mistakes based directly on HIPAA rules and regulations. Continue cross checking such plans regularly as HIPAA guidelines do change regularly.
- The best strategy to avoid landing in HIPAA hot water is to partner with a company that specializes in medical release of information and, thus, understands all the minute issues related to medical record storage, copying, and transfer.
Fig Gungor is CEO of OneSource Document Management, a New York based company that offers a broad range of customized copy and scanning services that translate into a significant savings for insurance companies, hospitals and large medical facilities.