What is HIPAA?
In 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The Act helps workers keep their health insurance when they change or lose their job. It also lays down standards for the management of electronic data about patients’ health care. While HIPAA allows the disclosure of information between physicians and to care providers, it also sets guidelines for data transmission and storage.
As ways of managing electronic data have changed, HIPAA has also evolved. For example, technologies such as texting now exist, and these technologies can make communication easier between patient and health care provider, but they can also open up new areas of risk if phones are not encrypted or providers do not control what information they put into a text.
What Happens if You Don’t Comply?
When you’re managing patient data such as birth dates or information about medical procedures and conditions, you don’t want to be careless with your patients’ medical information. What happens if your office data management procedures don’t comply with the HIPAA regulations? If you’re not complying with data management regulations and a patient feels that their personal information has been shared in a way that is inappropriate, your practice could receive a fine. If a care provider intentionally releases or sells information for commercial or personal reasons, there may be fines of up to $250,000 and up to 10 years imprisonment.
At the very least, poor data management procedures will make your patients feel uncertain and could mean that your practice develops a poor reputation, not for poor or inappropriate patient health care but due to lack of care of your patients’ personal data.
Practice Management Software Can Help
It’s hard to develop your own processes and procedures that keep your patients’ data safe. Luckily, you don’t need to do this on your own. Good practice management software can help. Look for practice management software that integrates HIPAA compliance and privacy measures into its workflow. PracticeSuite’s electronic transactions are all HIPAA-compliant. The software uses HIPAA-certified clearinghouses to submit claim transactions, so patients know that their medical claim data is safe. Users sign in and out so that you can track the use of the system, and the software also prompts you to ask for patient consent when required.
Practice management software also helps secure your data. In a typical medical office without this software, computers store health information about patients. What happens if there is a break in, if your computer is hacked, or if a staff person decides to use some of this information without permission? Instead of local storage, look for a practice management software system that stores data in a central location and provides back up in case of emergency.
If you’re struggling to crack the HIPAA privacy code and bring your practice into compliance, practice management software can help. Try PracticeSuite and see if that’s what the doctor ordered.