When a patient walks into a doctor’s office or a hospital, they usually feel vulnerable and concerned. Whether they are getting treatment for sudden illness or managing a long-term condition, the last thing they want to worry about is the safety of their private health information.
That’s where the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or “HIPAA”) comes in. What is HIPAA? It’s a law that protects patients’ private health information.
HIPAA allows patients to obtain copies of their health records and limits who healthcare providers can share health information with.
The penalties for violating HIPAA are serious. It’s meant to protect the privacy and dignity of patients, and the information involved is usually sensitive. Keep reading below for more information about HIPAA violations and their consequences.
Who Needs to Follow HIPAA
HIPAA applies to all health care providers. This includes doctors, nurses, and administrative workers in healthcare facilities.
HIPAA also applies to organizations that are considered “HIPAA business associates.” These include attorneys, accountants, and data management and storage companies that work within the healthcare industry.
The bottom line? If you work with patient records or health data in any way, you cannot share that information without violating HIPAA. You can read more about HIPAA risk analysis for more on the details of HIPAA law.
Consequences of Violating HIPAA
HIPAA violations have serious consequences. Whether intentional or accidental, HIPAA noncompliance will land healthcare professionals in hot water. Here are a few of the HIPAA penalties you could face for sharing private patient information.
HIPAA law requires that every instance of HIPAA violation be thoroughly investigated. An internal investigation is launched at the organization that violated HIPAA, and the consequences for violation are decided accordingly.
Almost every instance of HIPAA violation leads to termination. No matter if it was willful or accidental, a HIPAA violation puts your job at risk.
If you violate HIPAA, you might get a letter from your employer reprimanding you for your actions. You might also be suspended without pay for a period of time decided by your employer.
Sanctions can also apply to professionals who knew about HIPAA violations and did not report them — even if they did not personally violate HIPAA. That’s why you should always report HIPAA violations as soon as you are aware of them.
There are civil penalties and criminal penalties for violating HIPAA. The penalty depends on the amount of information shared, the effect that information had on the patient, and whether you violated HIPAA intentionally or accidentally.
Civil penalties range from a $100 fine to a $25,000 fine. Repeat violations will lead to a larger fine and can cost the guilty party as much as $1.5 million.
Criminal penalties include fines as high as $250,000. Prison time or jail time is a real possibility, too. A HIPAA violation caused by negligence could result in five years in prison. A willful or malicious violation could land you up to 10 years in jail.
Why is HIPAA Compliance Important
HIPAA gives patients peace of mind when they seek medical care. It provides assurance that their health data will not be used against them by employers or insurance companies. HIPAA also gives patients more control over their health by providing them with access to all their personal medical data surrounding.
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HIPAA is an important part of protecting patients’ rights and promoting their understanding of their own health. Now that you understand the consequences of violating HIPAA, it should be clear that it’s not something to be taken lightly!
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