When many health care professionals think about HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, they think about the fact that they can’t share their patient’s information without permission or that they have to take steps to prevent that patient information from being hacked in their computer system.
What they don’t always realize is how serious a HIPAA violation is. It’s not just something that will upset a patient, it’s actually potentially a criminal offense. If you, as a nurse or other medical provider, fail to protect your patient’s information, then you could end up facing penalties. Not only could you face criminal charges, you could also face the loss of your medical license for the violation.
What can you do to minimize the risk of facing penalties for a HIPAA violation?
To start with, you should take reasonable actions to reduce the risk of exposing your patients’ records. If you are going into a patient’s room with a file, keep it close to you. If you’re asked about a patient’s care, make sure that the person you’re speaking with is listed as someone the patient is comfortable sharing information with. Always get the right releases before handing over information about a patient to others.
Not all HIPAA violations are the same. Some are more serious than others. For example, if you didn’t realize that something you did was a violation, then you might face a Level 1 HIPAA violation claim, which is much less serious than a Level 4 claim for willfully negligent actions.
What are the penalties for a HIPAA violation?
It depends on the scenario. Most people will face civil fines to start with. The minimum penalty for 2020 was $119. The maximum was set at $59,522. These are base penalties for Level 1 offenses. Comparatively, Level 4 offenses start with a minimum penalty of $59,522.
It’s also possible that employees could lose their jobs, be asked to go through further training or have their license put at risk. This is why it’s smart to look closely at your situation and to get the right support to understand your legal rights.