Since it was first introduced in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has worked to ensure medical patients’ sensitive data remains secure and confidential. The HIPAA privacy rule is mostly associated with the healthcare field and is followed by establishments such as hospitals, doctor’s offices and pharmacies and starts with a HIPAA compliance assessment.
However, over time, other industries have had to follow HIPAA as well, including legal, education and the finance sector. The issue? Many organizations in these fields remain in the dark about their patient data compliance requirements and face the possibility of legal action and financial penalties if they are found noncompliant of HIPAA regulations. Below, we’ll break down everything you need to know about HIPAA – and how you can ensure your organization remains compliant.
Breaking Down HIPAA Compliance
First, let’s examine what HIPAA compliance consists of in order to avoid a HIPAA compliance audit. Specifically, HIPAA is made up of national standards set by the U.S. government that healthcare organizations must follow to safeguard protected health information (PHI). PHI includes demographic identifiers like a patient’s:
- Social security number
- Contact information
- Medical records number
- Health insurance beneficiary numbers
- Account numbers
- And more
According to HIPAA rules, there are two types of organizations that need to be compliant: covered entities and business associates. Covered entities are those that directly create PHI, like healthcare providers or health insurance companies. On the other hand, business associates are those hired by a covered entity that will be in possession of PHI documents during their work. Think MSPs, attorneys or medical billing offices.
Consequences of Violating HIPAA
The consequences of HIPAA violation often depend on the severity of the action. Regulators will look at factors like whether due diligence was followed, the number of people impacted by the violation, what harm was caused and whether there was malicious intent.
From there, penalties and fines will be put in place. For instance, an organization could face civil penalties that start at $100 per violation or rise to $25,000 if there are multiple violations of the same type.
Bigger violations can lead to criminal penalties, with a minimum fine of $50,000 up to $250,000. In addition to these fines, individuals who violate the rules could face jail time from one to ten years, depending on whether the violation was due to negligence or using malicious intent for personal gain.
The possibility of these consequences often encourages organizations to seek out HIPAA compliance services to ensure they continue to follow all procedures set in place.
What are Other Industries Affected by HIPAA?
One common industry that is defined as a business associate under HIPAA rules is the legal sector. Specifically, these include law firms or attorneys hired by healthcare providers to perform work that includes PHI. A typical example would be an attorney hired to look over PHI as part of reviewing a benefits claim. Attorneys who disclose PHI or inappropriately dispose of PHI or don’t perform the right enterprise-wide risk analyses could face the same penalties or fines as healthcare organizations would.
Other often-cited industries include the education or finance sector, which may also work with PHI under some circumstances. Fortunately, if you’re unsure if your organization is following the right HIPAA compliance requirements, Universal Data can help by providing HIPAA compliance services.
Ensure You’re Compliant with Universal Data
No business wants to face hefty fines, penalties or legal troubles for what could have been an avoidable mistake. Luckily, Universal Data can help numerous industries navigate the increasing security measures and protocols of HIPAA. We can perform a HIPAA compliance assessment or even an audit to help you get started.
If you’re curious about where you stand with HIPAA compliance, get in touch with our compliance experts today.