Blogs Home
Wednesday, April 5, 2023 12:00 PM

Spring Training: Patient Privacy Edition

Written by Demi Borden, Team Lead, Customer Success Specialist - iatricSystems


Making sure your organization is HIPAA compliant starts by ensuring every team member meets compliance standards. A single slip-up by one employee can not only trigger significant repercussions for the individual, but can also jeopardize the entire organization.

By educating and informing employees about HIPAA regulations and reinforcing the importance of exercising good judgment and common sense, you can effectively contribute to preventing HIPAA violations.

Here are five training tips to help healthcare employees avoid HIPAA violations.

  1. Stay Educated

To ensure that staff members comply with HIPAA regulations, it is essential to provide education and keep them informed about any changes or updates to these regulations. It’s necessary to clearly communicate the potential penalties that employees and the organization could face in the event of non-compliance. Conduct in-office training sessions to comprehensively educate employees on HIPAA privacy and security regulations and allow them to ask questions and seek clarification. Consistently provide ongoing education and training to staff members to ensure they remain knowledgeable about the HIPAA regulations and device standards necessary for maintaining compliance. Although this may require a significant investment of time, education is a crucial component of HIPAA compliance and should always be prioritized.

  1. Properly Store Paper and PHI

Managing paper and electronic files can be a challenging task. A simple mistake such as misfiling a patient's paperwork in a cabinet or saving it on an incorrect computer drive or network can result in costly consequences. Unfortunately, employees can often become distracted while handling these files, leading to errors. It is essential to continuously remind employees who handle patient files to remain focused on their tasks and take extra care to ensure that files are correctly stored and saved in the appropriate folders and drives. By reinforcing this message, you can help prevent errors and maintain the security and accuracy of patient files.

Proper disposal of paper files is just as crucial. Many incidents have occurred in which employees have neglected or intentionally chosen not to shred paper files before discarding them. In some cases, an employee may be distracted or having a busy day, making it easier for them to overlook shredding papers containing PHI. To prevent such incidents, it’s essential to train staff members to double and triple-check all paper notes before disposing of them and ensure that all paper files are appropriately and securely disposed of. By establishing  habits of careful disposal, employees can help maintain the security and confidentiality of patient information.

  1. Avoid Careless Mistakes

Even minor violations of HIPAA laws can have serious consequences for your company and staff, such as having patient information visible to anyone who enters your establishment. To avoid this careless mistake, ensure that patient folders are always closed, appointment calendars are not openly displayed in patient areas, and computer monitors, and mobile device screens are hidden from view. Implementing these simple measures can prevent unauthorized access to sensitive patient information and maintain HIPAA compliance.

Another common example is leaving computer monitors, notes, or machines visible to other patients. Staff members should be mindful of such instances and take immediate action to correct them before unauthorized eyes gain access to sensitive information. It is essential to establish a culture of confidentiality and privacy by training staff to keep information concealed whenever necessary. By encouraging these behaviors, you can help ensure the security and privacy of patient information in your organization.

  1. Continuous Updates

Conducting HIPAA training once a year is insufficient to ensure that your staff members stay up to date on any changes to HIPAA policies. To keep your organization HIPAA-compliant, you must provide ongoing refresher training courses and regularly test your employees throughout the year. It’s crucial to make sure your staff members understand how to perform their jobs while still complying with HIPAA regulations and any changes that may arise. By keeping your staff informed and well-trained, you can help prevent costly HIPAA violations and safeguard the privacy and security of patient information.

  1. Know Your Gaps

Understanding your potential gaps and knowing which employees need more training is easier said than done, especially if you’re in a larger healthcare organization that may have multiple locations. Haystack™ iS not only protects your organization by spotting potentially suspicious activity and preventing PHI breaches, but it also helps privacy teams uncover who and what is going on in your organization at the individual level. Haystack™ iS gives your privacy and human resources team the power to spot trends and uncover gaps in HIPAA education that would otherwise be missed manually. This way, your privacy teams can more effectively educate those employees that need it and continuously improve year after year.