Following the introduction of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), organizations that deal with Protected Health Information (PHI) have been placed under increased scrutiny. PHI is some of the most sensitive data on the planet. Should that information get into the hands of a hacker, severe damage can be done to your patients.
Firstly, they could sell it on the dark web for a considerable amount of money. Secondly, hackers could use the information to commit medical identity theft in any of the following ways:
Organizations found in violation of HIPAA could be subject to severe penalties, which can range from $100 to $50,000 per infringement, and up to an annual maximum of $1.5 million per organization. That’s why it is mandatory that covered entities and business associates, including any other organizations that deal with PHI, should have a HIPAA training and awareness program in place for its employees.
For every employee who comes into contact with Protected Health Information (PHI), HIPAA training and awareness is mandatory. Still, officials have not made it clear how many times HIPAA training should be offered throughout the year. However, it is recommended that HIPAA training for all employees should be offered “periodically”; therefore, it is open to interpretation by each organization.
The answer to this question, is around the clock – and all employees must receive training on HIPAA Rules. If training is not provided, employees will not be aware of the precautions they must take when handling PHI, or of allowable use and disclosures.
If employees are not properly trained, HIPAA violations will be inevitable. To reduce the risk of a HIPAA violation to the lowest possible level, HIPAA training should ideally be provided before any member of staff is granted access to PHI.
The provision of training at the start of an employment contract is essential, but training cannot be a one-time event – it is important to ensure employees do not forget about their responsibilities, so retraining is necessary and is a requirement for continued HIPAA compliance.
All employees should have an excellent working knowledge of HIPAA Rules that relate to their role. The organization’s sanction policy should be clearly explained, along with the criminal penalties for HIPAA violations.
Extra training must also be given whenever there is a material change to HIPAA Rules or internal policies concerning PHI, following the release of new guidance, or after the implementation of new technology.
While it is important to provide training for HIPAA compliance and security awareness, it’s also important to ensure that training has been understood, that it is remembered, and to ensure HIPAA rules are followed on a day to day basis. It is therefore recommended that you promote HIPAA awareness throughout the year.
Here are some suggestions for effective ways to promote HIPAA awareness in your organization:
People are forgetful, especially when it comes to complex rules and regulations. To combat that, you’ll need to conduct annual re-training sessions. Make sure, however, that these sessions are interesting and fun, ensuring awareness is spread while keeping your employees engaged to the material.
Include small, visual cues built into or by employees’ workstations. They act as reminders of their job’s most important aspects. Adding signs, posters, and other visuals in and around your employees’ workstations will keep them in a constant state of awareness.
Running test scenarios on your employees is one of the best ways to know where they stand. There are plenty of phishing testing services that will create fake emails – send these to your employees and review the results on how your team reacted. It might be a good idea to notify your team on what’s coming before you run a scenario, however – they don’t have to know the exact date you plan on running it, but give them a heads up.
It is recommended to provide security awareness training at least twice a year and to issue cybersecurity updates every month. A course like “HIPAA Privacy & Security” will provide valuable guidelines and information in that regard.
Taking tests and quizzes regularly can evaluate the effectiveness of your organization’s training program. Test scores will also encourage employees to educate themselves to achieve a better result. This way, your employees will always be aware and up-to-date on HIPAA regulations, and it will make your overall HIPAA training and awareness program more interesting and effective.
Another great wat to promote HIPAA awareness is to put up relevant and interesting visual posters, such as “Protecting privacy is everyone’s responsibility” around the facility. Email newsletters are another effective way to promote awareness. Whenever there is a change in the regulation, employees should be notified through an email bulletin or newsletter.
Webinars (and even offline seminars) take place all year round. Numerous webinars on topics related to HIPAA and security training are available, and some of them are even free. Encourage your employees to attend and participate in these to gain better insights on the related topics.
Keep in mind that your employees have a lot on their minds with a huge to-do list to get through every day. Keeping all the intricacies of HIPAA in mind all the time isn’t really realistic, especially if you host only one training session per year. Keeping your team aware, upskilled, and informed is a dynamic process that requires constant improvements and nurturing.